Hubert Sumlin, About Them Shoes

Fred Goodman

By Fred Goodman

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

As if the mere presence of legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin weren't enough to make for a promising record, About Them Shoes is an unheralded rock all-star session that features Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Levon Helm, David Johansen and blues harp master James Cotton. Sumlin, who made his mark with the great blues singer Howlin 'Wolf and also worked with Muddy Waters, is the kind of musical master who's all too frequently just off the radar of mainstream music fans — even though super-guitarists from Jimmy Page to Jimi Hendrix have sung his praises. What's particularly satisfying here is that Sumlin, despite his advanced age and the presence of such accomplished accomplices, still sounds great and does the lion's share of the lifting. Conceptually, the album focuses on interpreting the songs of Muddy Waters, and the two tracks with Richards, the raw "Still a Fool" and an acoustic version of "Little Girl, This Is the End," define the wide-ranging scope of the album. Sumlin's two tracks with Clapton, "Long Distance Call" and "I'm Ready," are as fine as any blues renditions Clapton has laid down on his own in recent years, while the Johansen track, "The Same Thing," flashes with danger and swagger while Cotton's harp swoops in and out of the selections. Still, the star here is Sumlin and About Them Shoes is much more than a group of rock stars paying lip service to a mentor. It's alive with the passion of a bluesman who's still very much on fire.