Home Read Billy Boy Arnold & The Groundhogs | Live At The Virgin Venue

Billy Boy Arnold & The Groundhogs | Live At The Virgin Venue

The Chicago harmonica master & the British blues-rockers join forces in a solid set.

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WHO ARE THEY? A trans-Atlantic blues summit between Chicago singer-guitarist and harmonica master Billy Boy Arnold and British blues-rockers The Groundhogs, fronted and founded by the rightly revered singer-guitarist Tony McPhee.

WHAT IS THIS? A live album recorded somewhere, sometime in a small venue. I’d love to be more precise than that, but I can’t find even the merest detail about this release anywhere online. It could be an official release or a bootleg — it seems to be on an actual label, but the cover art is nicked from James Brown’s Live At the Apollo album. It could be a show or a decades-old gig (these two artists have been collaborating off and on since the ’70s, and there’s no between-song banter to provide clues). So honestly, I have no idea. All I can tell you is that it’s a pretty smoking performance laced with plenty of blistering fretwork from McPhee.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Remember back in the ’60s when rockers like Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Brian Jones would make albums backing up artists like Howlin’ Wolf? Kinda like that. Except I don’t recall Wolf singing a song quite as ribald as Arnold’s Dirty Mother Fuyer.

WHAT ARE THE MOST REVEALING LYRICS? “Somebody help me with my troubles / Somebody help me with these blues.”

WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? A Night Of Timeless Blues.

HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? Without sweating the small stuff.

WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Classic, authentic, gritty, rough ’n’ tumble, rollicking, raucous, rude, easygoing, freewheeling, earthy.

WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? It’s pretty hard to top a song called Dirty Mother Fuyer. Just don’t play it for your own mother. She might not mind other standouts like Trust My Baby, Catfish, I Ain’t Got You and I Wish You Would.

WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘Who cares when it happened? Let’s just hope it happens again sometime.’

HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? Probably more than you would if you knew the whole story — the mystery only adds to its considerable charms.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A DRINK, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A bottle of unidentifed brown liquor with no label or external markings.

SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? If you can find somewhere to buy it, go for it. While you look, enjoy the stream.