“The blues is real!” blues guitar god John Primer professed in the midst of his and Bob Corritore’s outstanding Santa Barbara Blues Society-sponsored concert earlier this month at the Carrillo Recreation Center. Sure enough they proved it, unleashing a broken levee’s worth of killer blues, which included a hoodoo-fied rendering of Willie Dixon’s 16-bar blues composition for Muddy Waters: “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” (on which Primer and top blues harpist Corritore more than did the great Muddy Waters and Little Walter proud). They also did an outstanding cover of Waters’ mid-tempo number “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” a grooved out cover of Mack Rice’s “Mustang Sally” that got folks up and dancing, and a soulful take on slide guitar king Elmore James’ “Standing at the Crossroads” (based on Robert Johnson’s composition “Cross Road Blues”). “All you men — if you came in here alone, you leave here alone — leave the single womens [sic] for me and my band!” Primer half joked.
A Chicago Blues living legend, Primer played with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and Lonnie Brooks before joining Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars in 1979, where he played rhythm guitar, lead slide guitar, and sang. This led to an invitation to join Muddy Waters as a guitar player and bandleader until Muddy passed away in 1983, at which point Primer joined Magic Slim & the Teardrops for more than a decade. In 1991, Primer released his first solo album Poor Man Blues, and in 1995 his major label debut albumThe Real Dealdropped. Along with ace harmonica player Bob Corritore (who’s been blowing harp professionally since the late ‘70s, when he took notes from Big Walter Horton, Little Mack Simmons, Carey Bell, and Louis Myers), Primer has released two collaborative records: the award-winning Knockin’ Around These Blues (2013), and the straight-up tribute to Chicago Blues Ain’t Nothing You Can Do (2017).
“Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing… with hot sauce on it — that’s how we play the blues!” Primer teased, as the band continued to jam the pure blues. And the plethora of red hot tunes kept on coming, including spicy covers of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby,” Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Close To You.” Rounding out the evening with a scorching performance of Preston “Red’ Foster’s (by way of Muddy Waters) song “Got My Mojo Workin’,” Primer, Corritore, and the band heartily worked their magic on the blues-besotted audience. Also of note was opener John Premo, who showcased some fine bawdy blues covers, including Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy,” Merle Travis’ “So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed,” and the mellow Richard Saslow ragtime instrumental “Boogaloo Down La Rue.”