A coupling of the harpist's first and third LPs for Stax's Enterprise subsidiary and the best spot to inaugurate a Little Sonny CD collection. 1970's New King is mostly instrumental and places Sonny in a funky, contemporary setting; 1973's Hard Goin' Up was his best album for the firm, benefitting from excellent material spotlighting his vocal talents in a soul-slanted format.
This Dutch blues band was formed in the Hague around 1967, becoming a regular outfit from 1969. The early line-up included Bjorn Toll (vocals), John Lagrand (harmonica), Ted Oberg (guitar), Ruud Fransen (bass) and Niek Dijkhuys (drums) but although the name remained wholesale changes soon took place, bringing in a new singer, Nicko Christiansen, and new bass and drums, Peter Kleinjan and Beer Klaasse, the latter pair being swiftly replaced by Gerard Strutbaum and Cesar Zuiderwijk, while keyboard player Henk Smitskamp was added. Other changes followed through the 70s, by which time the band’s repertoire was more inclined towards rock.
Harp master Billy Branch has been a figure of the note on the Chicago blues scene since he was discovered by Willie Dixon in 1969, and after more than four decades, he's grown from a young buck bringing new blood to the blues scene to an elder statesman who stands tall for the music's traditions. Blues Shock arrives ten years after Billy Branch last released an album, but it sounds like he and his latest edition of the Sons of Blues are still in fighting shape, playing tight, straight-ahead blues with force, imagination and wit. Blues Shock shows there's plenty of fun and fresh ideas to be found in a form as time-tested as Chicago blues. It's a great set.