Koko Taylor Old School

This is Koko Taylor’s best outing since I Got What It Takes, her 1975 debut for Alligator. It’s a recording that almost sounds like it was made in 1975, filled with the type of tough and tender Chicago blues that the gruff vocalist has specialised in over a career spanning nearly 50 years. Taylor was born in rural Tennessee to a sharecropping family in 1928. Moving to Chicago in the late ’40s, she soon began haunting the South and West Side clubs, sitting in with the top blues artists of the day. Willie Dixon gave Taylor her first break, recording her debut single in 1963, later contracting Taylor to Chess. Dubbed "the queen of the blues,” this is Taylor’s ninth recording since signing with Alligator. Old School benefits from former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin’s presence on half of its 12 songs. He learned his raw, economical style of playing from the best of the genre. With harmonica master Billy Branch adding more down-home flavour, this combination shines on a shuffling version of Memphis Minnie’s "Black Rat” and the slow blues of "Bad Avenue.” Surprisingly, Taylor’s voice is still sounding fit after so many years of shouting the blues. Never a flexible singer, Taylor excels on songs where she’s making a point. Her best vocals are found in the five songs Taylor wrote for the session, particularly "Piece of Man” and "You Ain’t Worth A Good Woman,” proving that she’s still got what it takes. (Alligator/Fusion III)