Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Wolfophile Blues

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 1999 at 12:00 AM

According to the liner notes, Tail Dragger got his name from Howlin’ Wolf, who would always comment on the man’s inability to get to a gig on time: "Here he come, draggin’ his tail," Wolf would say.

The Wolf is long gone, but Tail Dragger is still running late on his gigs. That’s not the only thing that hasn’t changed. Although this recent CD release boasts such modern blues players as fellow Chicagoan Billy Branch, who plays a great harmonica, Tail Dragger prefers to keep his music steeped in the tried-and-true, stripped-bare sounds that put Chicago on the map as one of the country’s premier electric blues locations. He does a good job delivering what most Chicago blues lovers have come to expect – which is saying something – but there is no attempt to place any real individual stamp that would make this material Tail Dragger’s own.

Known in his earlier days as someone who could do a great imitation of Howlin’ Wolf, it’s apparent how much Tail Dragger – born and raised in Arkansas as James Yancy Jones – internalized the influence of the man who took him under his wing. The voice isn’t quite as commanding as Wolf’s, but it still has that rough, raw quality that sounds like it was smoke-cured in hundreds of small bars. His Wolf imitations on such songs as "Ooh Baby (Hold Me)" are impressive.

But the most entertaining song on this CD has got to be the title cut, "American People," which begs listeners to go easy on President Bill Clinton for his recent sexual indiscretions. After listing other presidents who fell short of moral perfection, he implores folks to "just let the man do his job."

This is a good CD. A few more songs like "American People" that deal with more than the standard blues subjects would have made it even better.

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