on September 21, 2005
Sugar Hill was an upscale blues joint in San Francisco, and Sonny and Brownie played it just 6 months after it opened, this CD being the results of that engagement. And it's a beauty. Often on record dates with these two giants, Brownie takes most of the vocals, with Sonny singing 2 or 3 songs; on this one, Sonny sings just as much as Brownie. (Early in their career Brownie once told Sonny that if he wanted half the money he was going to have to sing, not just play harmonica.) Sonny is an old-time blues singer, preferring older forms, traditional verses, all done in his raspy, unrefined voice. Brownie is smoother in voice and likes to experiment a bit with the blues form. For example, BORN TO LIVE, sung by Brownie, is 32-bars long, with a bridge, though it's drenched with blues feeling. WORRY, WORRY, WORRY also is slightly different, and includes a "whomp" at the end of each phrase. Sonny sings JUST ABOUT CRAZY, which sounds very much like a work song, while I FEEL ALRIGHT NOW is a secular spiritual. Both men are in excellent form here. Blues fans should find a lot to love on this CD.
on March 10, 2003
This live album captures a pair of legends at their best. Sonny and Terry fueded through their long careers but perhaps those very emotions fueled their amazing energy on these tracks. If you in any sense consider yourself a fan of the blues, you *must* own this album.
"Have to take your Christmas in your overalls"
"Rocks was my mother and father's pillows"
"Hooray, Hooray, this woman is killing me"
"I Feel Alright Now"
"Born To Live The Blues"
Best Sonny "Whoop":
All of them ;)
Tune That Is Impossible Not To Get Stuck In Your Head:
"Keep On Walking"
(Well, actually just about every track)
Curious factoids for the Brownie McGhee fan -- Brownie in his later years had a bit of an acting career. Brownie played Toots Sweet in Angel Heart and appeared and played some wonderful guitar on an otherwise truly dreadful episode of Family Ties.
on October 17, 2004
This December, 1961 recording captures Sonny and Brownie at the famous Sugar Hill nightclub in San Francisco.
It ranks among their best albums, alongside "Backwater Blues" and "Live At The New Penelope Cafe", and both men perform some of their best songs.
Brownie McGhee's melodic "Born To Live The Blues" has the audience clapping along, and the swinging "Keep On Walking", the terrific set-closer "Sweet Woman Blues", and Sonny Terry's energetic "Just About Crazy" are also among the highlights.
But that could be said for almost the entire album, actually..."Sonny And Brownie At Sugar Hill" is one of the duo's best original albums, even without classics like "Walk On" and "I'm A Stranger Here" (those can be found on "Backwater Blues", which is sort of a companion volume to this one, having been recorded just a week later at the same venue).
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee split the lead vocals about equally, and Sonny plays his characteristic sturdy harmonica and sings gritty backing vocals on most of Brownie's songs (listen to the wonderful tough folk/blues shuffle "Baby, I Got My Eye On You" for a perfect example).
Fans of the so-called Piedmont blues genre - or just acoustic country blues in general - should go for this fine album right away. It captures all of what made Sonny & Brownie so great.
on June 6, 2007
In the early 1960's San Francisco had a remarkable two block section called the Broadway strip. Here one could find clubs featuring most every ethnic variety of music - except the blues. When Sugar Hill opened in May of 1961, the void was filled. Terry and McGhee had a following in the Bay area from their concerts but now blues fans could see them in a club setting, which let their talent, authenticity, and charisma shine more brightly.
The songs on this disc are all originals (I Got A Little Girl, however, is quite similar to Robert Johnson's I Got A Woman) and, though the duo had played in Europe and many big US cities, show how they dug deep into their souls as they continue to inovate and make each song better. Sometimes the songs have a more contemporary feeling, other times it sounds like they were playing like they did as young men (at the time of this recording Terry was 50, McGhee 47).
The sound quality of the disc is outstanding. Many live recordings have too much audience and background noise. On this disc that noise is kept to an absolute minimum. Fantasy Records, which released the majority of Creedence Clearwater Revival's LPs, remastered this in 1991 and audiophiles will not be disappointed. The sound quality rivals - surprisingly - vinyl.
Terry and McGhee are a duo that sound like more. If you've never heard them one listen is all it will take to make you a fan. This is traditional blues at its finest.
on December 31, 2000
Without a doubt the finest blues recording of its genre. After hearing the 2nd track, "Born To Live The Blues", I took my harmonica player aside, left the rest of our band and started to pursue acoustic blues exclusively. Sonny and Brownie's combination of musicianship and emotion is evident in every tune, but never distracts you from the joy of listening. Be careful, this album is highly addictive!