Willie Foster, Live at Airport Grocery

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 10.24.11 in Reviews

Live At Airport Grocery

Willie Foster
The last great live album done by a traditional bluesman

This Mississippi harmonica man spent the height of his career in St. Louis and Chicago, and is best known for his off-and-on role with Muddy Waters. But in 1963, he returned to the Delta to take care of his ailing father and stayed there until the early ’90s, when he toured again briefly; in his last years, he stuck even closer to home and played rarely. Yet he was still a surprisingly spry harmonica player, with a bright tone and sure rhythmic flair, when he cut this album in 2000, a year before his death at age 79. Though his mournful vocals could be predictably weak and wobbly, that mostly just reinforced his lowdown persona on songs like “Janie on My Mind.” He also still knew how to put together a band, with a pair of perfectly complementary guitarists here in Charlie Ricker and Skeeter Provis. They help the boss tear it up on the opening instrumental ‘Just Messin’ Around,” and Foster’s also full of energy on “Promise Me Love” and “Willie’s Boogie.” This is arguably the last great live album done by a traditional bluesman.