Bentley's Bandstand: Tracy Nelson, Victim of the Blues

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Tracy Nelson, Victim Of The Blues, Delta Groove Records

Don’t mess around with Tracy Nelson. She recorded her first album for Prestige Records in 1964 with Charlie Musselwhite, still a young woman from Wisconsin, and began a long career that has been about staying true to herself while fighting off those who would have it any other way. The fact that now, in 2011, Nelson has recorded an album of true blues so strong it makes others sound like American Idol tryouts is no accident. She has been around the block, up the alley and down the road and isn’t about to start pulling her punches. Consider those she covers: Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Ma Rainey, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Percy Mayfield, Joe Tex, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Irma Thomas and relative newcomer Earl Thomas. You don’t wade into those waters unless you know how to swim, sharks or no sharks.

Victim Of The Blues isn’t without tragedy. Tracy Nelson’s house in Tennessee caught on fire during the time of these sessions, and when the firefighters arrived and told her they could possibly save one room she immediately asked it be the studio. That’s where all the recordings were. So save it they did, and we have this release to be thankful for. It is such a nonstop groove of emotional heaviness, joyous delight, worrisome romance and soulful reflection that it is almost too good to be true. Guitarist Michael Henderson is a master of restraint, pouring on the gasoline only when it’s called for, while keyboard player Jimmy Pugh fills in with an easy elegance and bounty. Bassist Byron House and drummer John Gardner could just have easily walked off the bandstand at Chicago’s Pepper’s Lounge in 1965; that’s the treacherous touch they’ve got. Guest vocalists Angela Strehli, Marcia Ball and John Cowan sound like they also heard the calling and jumped onboard.

There are times today when blues feels like it’s heading for the history books, but then eleven songs like this come along to tell us timelessness does exist as long as we have the heart to hear it. Tracy Nelson knows the world she walks in, and has waited a long time to give herself again completely to the blues. Timing is everything, they say, and this music arrives ready to turn the world’s troubles inside out and show the way forward. Follow the path and find the salvation.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Lady Goodman

    Bill Bentley. He’s just THAT good, too!

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