Born in 1935, Arnold has been on the blues scene a long time, and on this record has enlisted some top shelf help. In fact, if there was anything like truth in advertising this album should be listed as Billy Boy Arnold and the Duke Robillard Band. Aided by the Roomful of Blues horns the record is consistently pleasing from start to finish. Robillard and band prove once again that they are truely able to play any thing they put their minds to.
The old Eddie Miller classic "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" is given a treatment worthy of Louis Jordan. The song swings and sent me looking to see if Jordan had ever committed the track to wax. Arnold's voice is smooth and confident, and it is immediately clear that he is in full command of his skills. Born in Chicago, Arnold's honey voice strikes me as more southern gentleman than roadhouse rogue, even though he was a fixture on the Chicago scene for decades.
That is not all. Billy Boy Arnold still blows a righteous harp. And he shows great versatility in his playing, using his harp to suit the style of song, demonstrating that he is no one trick pony. "99 Lbs." is tribute to a woman who is "Natural born goodness, ninety-nine pounds of soul." Bruce Bears Hammond organ stirs up memories of the old Stax legacy.
My personal favorite is the Louis Jordan chestnut, "Ain't That Just Like Woman." Credited to C. Demetrius and F. Moore, it is a fine example of Jordan's jump blues (Jordan had a habit of being generous, giving songwriting credits to his wife, Flossie Moore on more than one occasion). Arnold's mastery of so many different genres is what makes this record such a joy. Comprised of fourteen tracks there is plenty to like here. We need recordings like this, getting these august voices to speak to us and remind us that there is nothing new under the sun. Billy Boy Arnold is living proof that the real wealth in American music is in its deep roots.