In 2017, Kim Wilson recorded what he said was the first in a series of tributes to his R&B heroes. Blues and Boogie Volume 1 did just that, but a follow-up never materialized … till now. Although not officially linked to his first outing, the principle of Take Me Back: The Bigtone Sessions is the same: present vintage blues as realistically as possible, utilizing the same technology that the original artists recorded with. But it’s done so well that the mono recordings here resonate better than any modern sound. Utilizing most of the same players that appeared on the 2017 disc, Wilson creates a vintage vibe that never sounds dated, blowing fresh air into obscure classics as well as presenting some of his own that fit in so well you’d never know they weren’t old-school gems.
Wilson’s cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “No Place To Go” from 1959’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight, doesn’t quite give that flesh-crawlin’, yodeling-in-the-mausoleum feel of the original, but still preserves the low-down and lonesome feel thanks to Jon Atkinson’s desolate fingerpicking and Wilson’s mournful harp.
Things are more upbeat on Wilson’s cover of New Orleans wildman Larry Williams’ 1957 raucous rattler “Slow Down.” It’s a flashback to the Fabulous Thunderbirds at their peak, thanks to Wilson’s buzzed-up delivery, aided by Robert Welsh’s frenetic piano pounding that rivals Williams’ work on the original and Jonny Viau’s horn work honoring sax great Plas Johnson’s contribution on the initial release.
No Wilson project would be complete without a without a Little Walter tribute, and “Take Me Back” lets the harpist blow plenty of life back into Walter’s 1968 classic, adding even more oomph to Walter’s already meaty harp line.
Wilson pays homage to Jimmy Rogers, whom he recorded with and backed live in the ’70s at Antone’s, with four Rogers compositions. He replicates Rogers’ train-whistle blasts on “The Last Time,” slow- drags his heart out with mournful lovelorn wails on “Money, Marbles and Chalk,” sounds more like Muddy Waters in a rollin’ and tumblin’ mood than Rogers on “Goin’ Away Baby,” and throws down on a full-blown blow-down that has the reeds smokin’ on “If It Ain’t Me.”
Whether Wilson goes forward or backward, it’s always a pleasure to share his memories and wallow in his skill set.