James Kinds was one of the rising blues stars of Chicago in the 1970’s, but his soul-influenced style that made him popular on the city’s West Side was a throwback to an earlier era, and while other artists modernized their styles, Kinds stuck to the route he had chosen. Ultimately, he decided that a change of venue might be the answer, and he relocated to Dubuque, Iowa. If Iowa doesn’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of blues, the state has been good to James Kinds, and he was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in 2008. His Delmark release “Love You From The Top” highlights his typical Chicago blues stylings, tinged with soul. There’s nothing particularly unusual here. Most of the songs deal with love and relationships ( “Love You From The Top”, “Peggy Sue”, “Katie” and “Johnny Mae”), but the updated “Crack Headed Woman” take on the older “Wine Head Woman” is a sad commentary on how things haven’t changed for the better. James Kinds may not be a household name of the blues, but his album “Love You From The Top” satisfies.
Junior Wells was born in West Memphis, Arkansas, but will forever be associated with the Chicago blues style for which he is known. A cousin of Junior Parker, his career began in the late 1940’s, but he came to prominence playing with Muddy Waters. When he formed his own band, the Aces, consisting of brother Louis and Dave Myers and drummer Fred Below, his style became more modern, infused with soul. By the time this live gig was recorded in Boston in 1966, Wells was one of the foremost Chicago blues performers, and the recording shows both his good-natured banter and the crowd’s enthusiasm. The set list reads like a list of blues’ best-known songs, but Wells approaches each of them with a master’s sense of craftsmanship. “Feelin’ Good”, “Man Downstairs”, “That’s All Right”, “Got My Mojo Workin” and “Look On Yonder’s Wall” are all there, as well as Wells’ signature hit “Messin’ With The Kid” and several Wells originals, including “Junior’s Whoop”, “If You’re Gonna Leave Me” and “I Don’t Know.” Between the tracks are Wells’ jokes, stories and friendly give-and-take with his audience. It is surprising that Live in Boston didn’t see release at the time, but its appearance now gives us the opportunity to hear Junior Wells at possibly the highest peak of his lengthy career.