Various Artists: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator/Southbound)

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Don't Call No Ambulance by Selwyn Birchwood
Various Artists: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator/Southbound)

The Alligator collections are always worth hearing because they serve two purposes; a catch-up with the Chicago label's recent signings and some terrific tracks from the label's enormous and credible back-catalogue.

Billed as "genuine houserockin' music" (one of their greatest acts was their first signing, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers), Alligator music cuts straight to the bar, turns up the volume and lets fly.

The label is or has been home to some great names: Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Luther Allison, Albert Collins, Guitar Shorty, JJ Grey and Mofro, Shemekia Copeland (daugher of Johnny), Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Joe Louis Walker and many more. All of them are represented here by a track among the 37 across this double disc.

Here too are James Cotton with Joe Bonamassa, Delbert McClinton, Johnny Winter, AC Reed with Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite, the Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson, Tommy Castro and the Painkiller . . .

And it closes with the Holmes Brothers' doing Amazing Grace.

This is timeless Chicago blues and even if a number of those names should be preceded by "the late" (or "the great") the music lives on as raw, well recorded and often visceral blues.

If you only buy one blues compilation this month or even year . . .

We have an archival interview with Alligator's founder Bruce Iglauer here

Go here for their 40th Anniversary Collection

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