THE 2120 SESSIONS - BECKY BARKSDALE

From Chicago Blues News by Barry Kerzner

 

It is always a delight to hear a great blues album, especially a new one where the artist is willing to take risks. It is not as easy as some might believe to take familiar blues standards and breathe new life into them, and pull it off successfully. So, when this happens, it is truly admirable. Such is the case with The 2120 Sessions, by Becky Barksdale (Workhorse Records).

Becky Barksdale may not be a household name yet, but she has certainly paid her dues. Her first guitar was a K-Mart model (seriously) that her grandfather bought for her when she was 12 years old. By the time she left high school, she was playing professionally, and before long she was playing in Canned Heat. When Michael Jackson was seeking a guitarist for his 1993 Dangerous Tour, Barksdale auditioned, surprising many of her friends who said, "But you play blues." Barksdale got the prestigious gig and went on tour with Jackson.

On The 2120 Sessions, Barksdale really shines. This is a fine example of what can be accomplished on a self-produced, self-recorded album. The results are powerful and dazzling. The production values are good, and the sound is excellent. The mix is wonderful; full of depth and separation

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Barksdale spent time working with Marie Dixon, and the late Shirli Dixon, when she played in a series of events raising money and awareness for Willie Dixon's Blue Heaven Foundation, located at 2120 S Michigan Ave, in Chicago. As everyone knows, this is the site of the former Chess Records facility. Today, it is a museum honoring Chess Records and the artists that recorded there.

Barksdale plays guitars, bass, piano, CP70, keyboards, and delivers awesome vocals throughout. Also on bass are Ethan Thompson and Steve McDonald. Playing skins with panache are Dusty Watson and Matt Lawg. Jim Powers rounds things out, playing some fine harp. At just under an hour, this album is an aural sensory banquet. The album kicks off with a very unique version of "Rollin' And Tumblin'" that is slow, with a strong back beat, and guitar that echoes T-Bone Burnett. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's "Midnight Hour" is a soulful cut with a bluesy edge and some fine Magic Sam style riffs. The band serves up a very atmospheric acoustic version of Skip James' "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" that is absolutely elegant and hypnotic. On John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom," Barksdale delivers some spirited Texas style vocals, and a few Billy Gibbons affected fills that spice things up nicely. Willie Dixon's "My Babe" sounds as though it was recorded in a supper club; amazing sound, a great beat, and a smooth solo. The band's rendering of the Willie Dixon staple, "Bring It On Home," is deliciously slow and atmospheric, with superbly understated leads and fills. "It Don't Make Sense, You Can't Make Peace (Texas Mix)" (also a Willie Dixon composition), is animated, with rolling percussion, a great vocal, and a killer lead. The traditional "Nobody's Fault But Mine" receives a unique treatment here; very soul infused, and reminiscent of the music the Crusaders did so magnificently. B.B. King's classic "Three O'Clock Blues" has some seriously sweet tone going on. The album closes with a "Chicago Acoustic" performance of "It Don't Make Sense, You Can't Make Peace" that has the spunk of Link Ray, the vibe of those wonderful Eddie Cochran chords, and it is completely captivating.

What makes this album so fascinating and absorbing is the Texas meets Chicago blues stew that Barksdale cooks up here. In addition, her vocals and playing are emotional, and sincere. Experience this album, and expand your blues palette with the treats this feast offers. Don't wait, or you will be missing out.

~Barry Kerzner

  Chicago Blues News

Artist: BECKY BARKSDALE
Title: THE 2120 SESSIONS
Label: WORKHORSE RECORDS
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-2120-sessions/740270983