Originally convened in 2007 by noted session guitarist, bandleader, producer and avatar Tim Tucker, the Bluesmasters reach heights of blues bliss rarely encountered. Their first release in 2010 featuring singer extraordinaire Mickey Thomas proved that he could not only have a “second act,” but a third following his tenure with Elvin Bishop and superstardom with the Jefferson Starship. Volume Two of the Bluesmasters shines a bright light on the exceptionally talented singer/bassist Cassie Taylor, daughter of iconoclastic bluesman Otis. Tucker produced Blue for her in 2011 and she has become a lauded young recording phenom in her own right. Subtitled In Memory of Our Friends Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin and honored with the presence of the two departed immortal blues giants, it also boasts Thomas, the veteran blues singer Hazel Miller and guitar slingers Eric Gales and Rusty Anderson from Paul McCartney’s band. Fronting a masterful rhythm section of Tucker (guitar), Doug Lynn (harmonica), British blues legend Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Larry Thompson (drums) from the Otis Taylor band, and Viet Nam vet and GI Jams member Ric Ulsky (Hammond B-3 organ), they tear through 12 classic and obscure blues covers on a profound as well as immensely entertaining musical odyssey. Cassie Taylor is a magnificent and fearless interpreter as immediately made evident on “Bring It On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke and the rare Elmore James tune “Talk to Me, Baby” finding Taylor effortlessly ratcheting up her silken pipes to a feline growl over a sinewy, swinging shuffle. One listen to the version of Muddy Waters’ classic “Just Wanna Make Love to You” is enough to convince that it could have been written for Taylor as her intimate, breathy vocal rises to a climactic shout, injecting the aura of promised passion in her delivery beyond the original. Following is her dramatic reading of the Don Nix gospel-tinged “Same Old Blues,” famously covered by Freddie King and here delivered with deep feeling wrapped in her personal interpretation of the melody that is matched in intensity by Tucker’s soul-searing solo and piquant obbligatoes. Only one highlight among many occurs on “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” where Taylor and Mickey Thomas combine for a brilliant, show-stopping duet. Over a thumping shuffle provided by Taylor and Dunbar and with additional guitar from Rusty Anderson, the two singers push and prod each other until they levitate the song to climactic ecstasy. Taylor shows her seemingly unlimited scope and range on the Robert Johnson Delta blues classic and vengeance drama “32-20 Blues,” here re-imagined as a loping, funky mid-tempo romp with relentless glee. Fittingly, Taylor was chosen to close the set and does right by the Jimmy Reed, “Honest I Do.” With Pinetop again setting the proper tone on the ivories and Tucker accompanying with slashing, tube-frying guitar licks, Taylor pours out her raw emotions with startling depth beyond her tender years as the track threatens to combust with incendiary power. Though every Bluesmaster is a road-tempered pro and a musical force in their own right, the sum total of the whole exceeds the parts in a way, which only the very best bands succeed. Their commitment and zeal to excel every second of every song not only promotes their individual glory, but pushes their band mates to ever greater performances. With a sensational record like this for incontrovertible proof, no one should ever question the continually renewing vitality of the blues and the dedicated musicians who live and love it.
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