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Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
Sonny & Brownie
Released in 1972, Sonny & Brownie is the finest work in a long string of amazing collaborations between these two folk blues maestros.
At the time of the album's release, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee had established themselves as two of the best in the business, forging long and storied careers. Although this album was not a huge success commercially, the pair had a loyal following. That's a shame because it's a great record.
It opens with a fantastic version of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," which puts the better known recording by Rod Stewart to shame. From there, Terry and McGhee, along with a superb (but unnamed) rhythm section, run through a series of modern day spirituals and barn burning blues numbers.
The highlights are plentiful. "You Bring Out The Boogie In Me," is an unexpectedly sexy strut considering both of these men were in their early 70s at the time of the recording. Their version of "Sail Away," is arrestingly beautiful, while "The Battle Is Over" is stunning and features some sultry background vocals.
Both McGhee and Terry were fantastic musicians and both have ample opportunities to display their skill. "Sonny's Thing" is little more than an extended harmonica solo, while "Jesus Gonna Make It Alright" boasts some incredible fingerboard scorching guitar work from McGhee. Vocally, the duo are also outstanding throughout the record. They perform duets on most tracks, and the difference in the timbre of their voices blends together quite well.
The impact of this record, and indeed the pair's work in general, cannot be denied. They may never have achieved the household name status of BB King or John Lee Hooker, but their influence can be heard in the work of people like Keb Mo and Chocolate Genius.
If you've never heard the music of these two masters before, then Sonny & Brownie is a great place to start.
Aaron St. John