The Blues & Nothin' Else
Of all the honkers who worked the table tops out on the West Coast, one of the very best was "Big" Joe Houston. Able to jump from big band to small combo blues and R&B with consummate ease, Houston was one of the first to test the waters of the newly emerging style that would become known as rock & roll. Cutting one brilliant single after another for a variety of labels — and seeing his early work among the first to be anthologized on a myriad of budget label albums — Houston was the California version of the tenor men who honked and walked the bars in the Big Apple, often outdoing his New York contemporaries with sides of fervent blasting that could not be denied. Fortunately for us, that fervent blasting is alive and well and beating right alongside Houston's big heart on this, his first new album in a good number of years. The most notable fact is that Houston is singing on everything, relegating his tenor work to no more than a couple of choruses on each tune, framing it in proper perspective as another soloist in the very rockin' band that backs him here. The really good news is that Houston's voice is every bit as rough-hewn as his sax playing, making you wonder why it took this long to get it properly documented on record. The final track lets you know that the man still has it and really isn't rationing anything; the set closer, "Full of Misery," is eight-minutes-and-twenty-five seconds of Houston making a rarely heard appearance on alto sax, playing the blues all by his lonesome, and making it sound oh so sweet.
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