Linsey Alexander: Come Back Baby
11 of the 13 tracks are originals sporlighing Linsey's stinging, slashing lead guitar and gritty, satisfying vocals. Linsey Alexander - gtr/voc, Breezy Rodio - gtr, Roosevelt Puryfoy - kbds, Greg McDaniels - bass, Pooky Styx - drums, Ryan Nyther - trumpet, Bill McFarland - trombone, Chris Neal - tenor sax, Billy Branch - hca on 3 tracks.
The Hoochie Man is back!
Chicago blues artist Linsey Alexander's first De!mark album, 2012's Been There Done That. established him well outside the North Side club circuit that he's thrived on since the '90s he recently performed in Europe and South America). Come Back Baby proves that critically acclaimed disc was no fluke. 11 of the 13 tracks on this new album are splendid originals spotlighting his stinging, slashing lead guitar and gritty, satisfying vocals.
'I like writing all my stuff,' says Alexander, who proves equally conversant with straightahead blues and grooving soul-slanted material on this set. The roiling shuffle 'Booze And Blues,' a pounding 'Can't Drink. Can't Sleep, Can't Eat' (featuring a dazzling Billy Branch harp solo, one of several that the harmonica master contributes to this set), the wry 'Call My Wife,' the lights-out 'Too Old To Be A New Fool' and 'I Got A Woman' (not the Ray Charles perennial) indicate the quality of Linsey's songwriting in a straight blues mode.
Alexander turns serious when discussing the insightful 'Things Done Changed.' 'It ain't like it used to be,' he said. 'I remember the time when I couldn't go in a restaurant. I had to be served outside. Had to go to a different bathroom and all that. So that's how that came about.'
Then there's 'Booty Call,' a slightly salacious piece of work that offers insight into the mindset behind Alexander's nickname. 'Marvin Sease made a record. 'I'm Gonna Get Me A Hoochie Mama: I never recorded it. but I did a song called 'I'm A Hoochie Man:' he says. 'I answered it. Then they started calling me the Hoochie Man.'
Developing his own distinctive sound on guitar didn't come overnight for Linsey. 'It started out like I was hearing the Alberts and the B.B.s and everybody else,' he says. 'I never could perfect what they were doing. So I just turned myself a little and just do what I can do, and bless myself with my style. This is my style, so now I ain't got to worry about doing what the Alberts and the B.B.s do. I just play me. And everybody likes me.'
Linsey was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi (also the birthplace of Syl Johnson) in 1942 and moved with his family to blues-soaked Memphis when he was 12. There he began playing through a guitar-playing pal. 'A guy named Otis. he was a friend of mine,' says Linsey. 'He would come by the house, and he would sit down and just play. And I used to watch him.
'I went and bought another guitar, and I had a nephew trying to play it. One day Otis came by my house and he left the guitar. When he left the guitar, he never came back, so I gave my guitar to my nephew and took Otis' guitar.' he says. 'When I got ready to leave, I put it in the pawnshop and got me money to come to Chicago.'
Music wasn't on Alexander's mind when he embarked for the Windy City around 1960. He was pursuing a young lady he'd become friendly with when she was vacationing in Memphis. Unfortunately. he arrived in the middle of a blizzard. 'I got trapped in it,' he laughs. 'I came here lookin' for my woman, and I made a mistake. I should have stayed in Memphis!'
Eventually he acquired another axe. 'I started hanging out at a place on 63rd Street called the Place Lounge,' says Linsey. I put a little band together called the Hot Tomatoes, and we did good.
'The Hot Tomatoes, we were doing like 'Let It All Hang Out 'I got a necktie made out of barbed wire' (Bo Diddley's 'Who Do You Love'): he says. 'We were doing all covers.' Alexander's Equitable Band subsequently spent eight years holding down the bandstand at the Launching Pad at 75th and Stony Island. 'That was my soul days. James Brown, Teddy Pendergrass. I could sing it good. Tyrone Davis. the Commodores.'
There was an intriguing hookup with drummer Red Saunders. once the bandleader at the Regal Theater. 'Red would book the shows, and we would come out and play.' says Linsey. 'It was called the Red Saunders Revue. And he would come out and play for awhile. and then he'd turn us loose.'
Alexander's blues conversion transpired by sheer chance. 'I was on Western Avenue, and a man came up. He said, 'My buddy's going to jail. I need a blues band. Can you be a blues band?' I said. 'You want some blues?'' he says. 'We weren't making but S35 a man. But we played the blues. That's how I started playing the blues.' He had an affinity for it.
'I used to go see Nowlin' Wolf every Wednesday down on 39th. a place called the Playhouse. Then I used to go see Lefty Dizz and them down at the Blue Flame. down on 39th Street.' Alexander and Johnny Drummer joined forces for a time. 'They needed a band at the Checkerboard,' he says. 'I was the guitar player. And we used to back up Buddy and Lefty Dizz.
'Buddy was going to Australia or somewhere. and he wanted to take us with him. They was talking about set-ting it up. I said. 'I ain't going.' By that time, I had too much stuff going for me.'
Alexander was gigging at a South Side nightspot called Red's when a manager helped him make his move north. 'He come in there and said. 'Hey, man, you're too good to be in here!'' says Linsey. 'So he booked me on the North Side everywhere.' He remains a regular attraction at Kingston Mines and Buddy Guy's Legends.
Past 70, his musical career still growing, Alexander remains his own man. He's free to play his blues the way he pleases, to be the Hoochie Man with a devilish glint in his eye and an arsenal of tough guitar licks at his beck and call.
'What my mind tells me to do, that's what I do,' he says. 'The B.B.s and the Alberts, they're great. I wish I was one of them, but I'm not. So I have to be me.'
We're glad he is.
Article properties: Linsey Alexander: Come Back Baby
|Alexander, Linsey - Come Back Baby CD 1|
|01||Little Bit Of Soap|
|02||Booze And Blues|
|03||I Got A Woman|
|04||Come Back Baby|
|05||Call My Wife|
|06||Things Done Changed|
|07||Can't Drink, Can't Sleep, Can't Eat|
|09||Too Old To Be A New Fool|
|10||Snowing In Chicago|
|11||I Can't Quit You Baby|
|13||Goin' Out Walkin'|
The Blues, to Linsey Alexander, is a living and breathing music; it's part of who he is, not just something he plays. "I like the traditional sound," he says, "then I like my sound, and I try to get it all there together, where they can really combine together and make one thing. I hear a lot of guitar players all playing in the same — all trying to sound like somebody else. I don't want to be known for that. When you hear me, I want you to know who I am. I'm still living; I still got a story to tell."
Linsey Alexander Hails From Deep Blues Country.
He Was Born In 1942 In Holly Springs. Mississippi, near the epicenter of the Hill Country blues community that introduced the likes of R.L. Burn-side and Junior Kimbrough to the world. When he was about twelve years old. he moved to Memphis with his family; there he had the experience that would eventually lead him into a lifetime of making music. "It started,- he remembers, "from me listening to a guy who would come by my house. and he would bring his guitar. and he used to play us a little lick ... This guy's name was Otis. I'd sit there and listen at him; we were about the same age. He left one day. and he left the guitar, so what I had seem him play and what he had showed a little bit, I picked up the guitar, and I started playing it myself. I think the first song actually was 'Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley,' and I did [the country music hit] 'White Silver Sands.— Linsey also remembers hearing blues. country. and rock & roll on the radio during those years; Memphis keyboard legend Rosco Gordon was a favorite of his, as were rockers like Chuck Berry and Elvis. But despite this, and despite his admiration for young Otis's guitar playing. he didn't yet envision himself as a musi-cian. "That came later." he affirms. "I tried to be a singer more than I did a guitar player. When I'd be out playing football with the boys. and I had the long walk home by myself, I used to sing a lot.-
In about 1960, Linsey left Memphis for Chicago. Like the bluesman he would soon become. he did it for love: "Followed my girl. She was down on vacation in Memphis. and me and her got to be close friends. She was living in Chicago, and I had a brother in Chicago, and my mother [had] passed in '58. I was living with [another] brother. and I was working in a hotel, doing maintenance work and stuff like that. When the girl left. my older brother and I decided to come to Chicago. So we packed up. got on the Grey-hound. and here we come." In Chicago. Linsey found himself captivated by the still-thriving South Side scene: a club-goer could immerse himself in music ranging from contemporary soul and R&B to hardcore Chicago blues. He heard popular soul artists like McKinley Mitchell and Bobby Day. and he also had the opportunity to experience the housewrecking bluesmanship of Howlin' Wolf. Inspired, he purchased a guitar. got together with a couple of like-minded friends, and formed a band. Christened the Hot Tomatoes. they were good enough to enter a talent show at a well-known nightclub on 63rd St. called The Place. But Linsey had higher aspi-rations. "I was kind of advancing more than my band could keep up with me," he asserts. "so I got another bass player. then I got another drummer, and we started gigging out. and then we got another guitar player. and we called ourselves the Equitable Band.
My first real paying gig was the Launching Pad.; 75th [St.] and Stony Island. We got in there with my band. and we played for about eight years." Linsey also had the opportunity to share stages with such figures as Bobby Rush, Little Milton. B.B. King, and Buddy Guy. But he focused mostly on front-ing his own group. "My band was doing pretty good on the South Side," he affirms, "playing at various little clubs, lawn parties and stuff. We started getting good gigs; I played with [drummer and bandleader] Red Saunders for a while. They used to rent the band out to go do gigs for them. "I went to a club down by 35th and Archer. used to be called Red's. I was playing there one night. and an agent come in there. his name was Frank Curtis. and he said. 'What in the world are you doing in here, as good as you are?' I said, 'Well. this is as far as I can go right now, [unless] something else happens.' We had a saxophone player. we was going good, about the hottest band on the South Side.
So when I got with this agent, he started taking me around — took me up to B.L.U.E.S. [a popular North Side club]; they let me sit in, and that man heard me, and the guy from Kingston Mines [across the street] came over and heard me and said, We gonna give you some work.' So they gave me some work. Next time you know, I was in Blue Chicago [downtown] — the guy had me working, y'know?" Savvy and opportunistic ("I seen I was going to be around tourists"), Linsey then recorded a series of CDs, which he produced and distributed independently. They didn't get much radio play, but they brought in some money and expanded his reputation. "The more money I made," he affirms, the more I invested in myself. They been doing good and still selling." No doubt because of those years of experience, as well as his hard-won businesslike attitude and determination, Linsey recorded this, his first-ever CD on an established label, with a rare blend of improvisational flair and no-nonsense attention to detail. "I did it live," he answers with justifiable pride, "and I didri 'qve to go back and overdub no singing. Not one song. And I just had to over-dub two guitar solos, and that was it."
The songs, meanwhile, combine streetsy tough-ness with an eclectic approach that reflects Lin-sey's diverse musical influences. Although most of what's here is rooted solidly in the postwar blues tradition, there are strong flavorings of deep soul (the title tune is based on the melodic structure of the Eddie Floyd/AI Green classic "I've Never Found A Girl") and funk-driven R&B (a sharp-eared lis-tener will hear echoes of Parliament's "Give Up the Funk" on the concluding cut, Linsey's imagi-native updating of the Robert Johnson myth). It's all part of Linsey's determination to "keep the blues alive," as he says, but to do so without becoming a copycat or repeating well-worn ideas until they've lost their sheen.
The blues, to him, is a living and breathing music; it's part of who he is, not just something he plays. "I like the tra-ditional sound," he says, "then I like my sound, and I try to get it all there together, where they can really combine together and make one thing. I hear a lot of guitar players all playing in the same — all trying to sound like somebody else. I don't want to be known for that. When you hear me, I want you to know who I am. I'm still living; I still got a story to tell." — DAVID WHITEIS