Hound Dog Taylor

The boogie slinks out of the grave like the midnight creeper on this 14-cut disc of previously unreleased performances by this, the rawest of Chicago slide-slingers.

The honor roll of Delta-style Chicago bottleneck bossmen scrolls through blues annals: Muddy Waters, Elmore James, J.B. Hutto, Left-Hand Frank…And Hound Dog Taylor, six fingers on each hand, six live wires in his mitts, didn't need proper tuning, didn't need a polished arrangement, didn't need a bass player, didn't need anything but the joyful power of his Greenwood, Mississippi, tractor-driving boyhood blues chunked and distorted through a westside pawn-shop amp. Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers were grunge long before anyone in Seattle brewed a cup of latte.

These selections span five settings, three of them live performances. They combine to augment a precious catalog courtesy of Chicago-based Alligator Records, founded in 1974 by Bruce Iglauer for the express purpose of recording the Dog and his mighty Houserockers, who were nothing but two guitars (Taylor and Brewer Phillips) and drums. The label managed to squeeze out one Dog disc before Taylor's death from cancer in 1975 (Natural Boogie in 1974), then dropped two posthumous Grammy-nominated releases, Beware of the Dog (1975) and Genuine Houserocking Music (1982).

This generous set comprises the most fulfilling and historically satisfying listen yet, capturing a man and his band still blessed by a raucous, primal power and working through a variety of grooves and tonalities. This is the holy light, the light piercing the darkness that drives men mad. It's all-night, it's-bad, she's-gone, ain't-gonna-be-here-long, got-to-leave blues that sends a young man out into the big soot-covered evil-smelling world to find himself and make a joyful noise.

You want a peek inside? Check out the hypnotic, Delta-thumping "She's Gone," the crazed, talking-to-myself "Things Don't Work Out Right" and the Jimmy Reed-ish, wanna-go-home "See Me in the Evening/It's Alright." It's like a preacher opening the Bible, a magician pulling the curtain aside, secrets revealed, so close to real.

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Marty Racine