Byther Smith Blues On The Moon: Live at the Natural Rhythm Social Club

Recorded in 2007 on the south side, this little gem of a CD (a DVD is also available) is proof of how powerful the Chicago blues style can be if it’s performed with conviction. Born in Mississippi, and now 75 years old, Byther Smith is an unheralded dean of the Chicago blues scene noted for his raw approach. With a first-rate band, he roars through an 11-song play list mainly of his distinctive compositions. Smith’s strength is his strident, fiery voice, a wild force of nature harnessed to sing songs of bitterness and confusion. Some imagery in his originals is violent, as during "Judge of Honor,” where he shouts: "don’t you ever make me mad, lord, don’t give me the right to break your jaw with a left and right.” In "Give Up My Life For You,” Smith wails, "Baby Jesus died. He died for this world. I am Baby, don’t let him die for you, girl.” André Breton would approve! I wouldn’t want to create the wrong impression though — the night is one of celebration, the crowd up and dancing throughout. Hearing this CD is almost as a good as being there. (Delmark)