Lynwood Slim: Hard To Kill
Lynwood Slim is missed. The Los Angeles bluesman gave up the ghost last summer not long after a stroke, and the southern Californian and international blues music scene have been poorer place for his absence. On a brighter note, Slim’s legacy is intact, and the new Rip Cat album, Hard to Kill, attests to the man’s magnetism and bravura as a vocalist, a harmonica player, and an improvising flutist. At the time of his stroke, Slim was close to completing this collection of West Coast-style blues tracks he’d recorded in recent years in his native California and on visits to Europe and Brazil; Rip Cat producer Scott Abeyta stepped up and expertly completed the posthumous release. Both an introduction to Slim and a reaffirmation for fans, Hard to Kill offers revitalized lesser-known classic material (associated with Jimmy Reed, Cleanhead Vinson, B.B. King, others) and three sturdy original tunes. Every one brims over with aural delights.
Slim was an uncommonly good vocalist, full of feeling that mixed a calm resolve in the face of adversity and a barely contained exuberance. After all, his bloodline is impressive, running back through West Coast exemplars Charles Brown, Percy Mayfield and Lowell Fulson to the grand master T-Bone Walker. Slim’s a smooth and confident singer all over Hard to Kill, whether jumping blues, swinging jazz, or taking a nice-and-easy loping approach to vocal uplift. He binds together simplicity and sophistication in various tempos and moods. Though preoccupied here with singing, he offers samplings of his prowess on West Coast-meets-Chicago blues harmonica and Herbie Mann-inspired flute.
Slim’s fresh-sounding efforts in band settings find him supported by simpatico musicians, including southern Californian guitarists Kid Ramos and Johnny “Cat” Soubrand; French guitarists Nico Duportal and Farid Bouzit and Alberto Colombo in Italy. He’s in synch with the Igor Prado Band in Brazil, Daan Prevo’s Blues Crowns in the Netherlands, the Red Wagons in Italy, and back home, Trick Bag.
It’s important to note that the album’s closing track “Lynwood Slim” is an engaging tribute tune composed and sung by Washington State blues all-star Mark DuFresne. His lyrics about Slim are perceptive, including this phrase about Slim’s perseverance: “Keep smilin’ when things look grim”
Named for the part of Los Angeles he lived in as a youth, Lynwood Slim traveled around the globe but stayed rooted in southern California blues, working with world-class local guitarists like Kid Ramos and Junior Watson and so many other superb musicians. Late last century, he also spent quality time in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area and in blue Chicago, where he teamed up with guitarist Dave Spector and the Bluebirds and other notables.
Gone but never to be forgotten.