Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

Big James and the Chicago Playboys

The Big Payback

2012-02-12

James Montgomery’s horn-based blues band Big James and the Chicago Playboys recorded The Big Payback live at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in Paris in 2010. James raspy voice is second only to his trombone. Little Milton gave him his start but he also backed Albert King. The “playboys” band members are Mike Wheeler, Larry Williams, Joe Blocker, Charles Pryor, and Cleo Cole. Not a bad track here…but 8 and 6 are standouts blues-wise. In “The Blues Will Never Die” Joe Blocker adds a bit of funk via keyboard and Wheeler brings in a sweet guitar solo. Big James brings that same James Brown attitude on the title track cover, “The Big Payback.” Track 3 is a tribute to his dad in “Coldest Man I Ever Knew” as in the coolest man. Each guitar line provides perfect backdrop to every phrase James sings. Track 6 “That’s Why I’m Crying” features an awesome guitar flight courtesy of “Money.” I can’t say enough about “I’ll Stay” which is a slow-burn harmonized blues number with keyboard, trumpet, and guitar each providing wonderful solos. Fast-paced bluesy cover “Smoke on the Water,” last in the set list, allows for introduction of band mates to the Parisian audience, with Big James also stating, “If you don’t know, now you know.” Pam VandeKerkhoff

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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