Rotations 6

Syl Johnson is definitely back in the game.
By Bob Weinberg

Floyd McDaniel and the Blues Swingers
Let Your Hair Down!
(Delmark Records)

"A raggedy ride beats a dressed up walk, any time of the day," sings Floyd McDaniel on the opening track of this swanky, bluesy, jazzy record, recalling the likes of T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown in front of their own brassy conglomerations. Like those men, McDaniel combines the raucous bump of a ride in the rumble seat with the velvet smooth transmission of a well-tuned Rolls. And though he's not as flashy a picker as T-Bone or Gate, McDaniel manages some jumpin' chords, eliciting a beautiful tone from his Gibson.

McDaniel, who will be 80 years old in July and hits the mainstage of the Chicago Blues Fest in June, displays all the panache and showmanship he collected playing the Cotton Club when Harlem was heaven, jumping with Jelly Holt and the Four Blazes, putting on impromptu jams with Joe Williams and Willie Dixon in the back car of the El, and backing everyone from Sam Cooke to a version of the Ink Spots. McDaniel's most obvious influences are Charlie Christian (who persuaded him to go electric back in the early Forties) and T-Bone Walker, whose classic song lends this disc its title (though you might know it as "T-Bone Shuffle"). The other Walker tune here, "Blue Mood," provides the gemstone of the seventeen-song collection, McDaniel perfectly capturing a melancholy moonlit feel.

Backed by the Blues Swingers, a great horn band led by tenor saxophonist Dave Clark, McDaniel runs the gamut from swellegant big band arrangements (Andy Razof's clever "Christopher Columbus") to down and dirty blues (McDaniel's own "West Side Baby"), the latter proving to be his true love. It's this combination of slick sophistication and down-home warmth that makes McDaniel's blues as satisfying as a plate of grits at the Ritz.

By Bob Weinberg

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