Albert COLLINS, Robert CRAY, Johnny COPELAND - Showdown 1985
This excellent 1985 Alligator release finds three guitar legends squaring off, cutting heads, and forming a brotherhood forged in blues. The elder statesman and leader here is the irrepressible Albert Collins, whose guitar sound and unique approach to the blues has been bending ears since the '50s. Johnny Copeland, the "Texas Twister," an early disciple and longtime friend of Collins, is also here, showing he's moved well beyond Collins's early tutelage. The youngest gun is Robert Cray, another musician Collins took under his wing (some 15 years after he first met Copeland).
Backed only by a bassist, drummer, and organist (the spare backing band helps put the guitar work at center stage), Collins, Copeland, and Cray go toe-to-toe on these tracks. What's especially intriguing is that each song gives equal air time to each musician, making room for solos all around and even, on some tracks, shared vocals. Copeland is the wildest here, with his wooly, rough-hewn voice and blistering leads, counterbalanced by Cray, who lends a laid-back air of sophistication to the proceedings. Collins brings it all together with his signature "icy" style. SHOWDOWN! is a dream come true for blues-guitar fans.
Far from engaging in a guitar-playing shootout, Albert Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Copeland work together incredibly well, achieving a kind of musical synergy that's rarely heard. Copeland and Cray handle most of the vocal duties, and Cray's smooth, soul-tinged voice (positively shiver-eliciting on "The Dream," as is Collins's lead guitar work) complements Copeland's growl perfectly. Collins doesn't get to sing as much, but he more than makes up for it with his harmonica on the slow blues "Bring Your Fine Self Home." And of course, all three turn in stellar guitar work, trading solos and rhythm parts with the greatest of ease; Cray was a relative newcomer at the time of this recording, but he more than holds his own. One would be hard pressed to find a better blues collaboration anywhere.
By Genevieve Williams. AMG.
A1. T-Bone Shuffle 4:54
A2. The Moon Is Full 4:59
A3. Lion's Den 3:55
A4. She's Into Something 3:49
A5. Bring Your Fine Self Home 4:30
B1. Black Cat Bone 4:54
B2. The Dream 5:28
B3. Albert's Alley 4:01
B4. Blackjack 6:26