Bill Lupkin

Bill Lupkin
Hard Pill To Swallow

Blue Bella Records BB1011

By Art Tipaldi
May 2008

Blue Bella Records is distinguishing itself as one of the finest new blues labels.

Led by guitarist Nick Moss, Blue Bella is making its name by dedicating itself to capturing Chicago blues.

Bill Lupkin is one of those rare finds. He's been playing the Chicago blues harmonica for almost 40 years. In that time, he toured with Jimmy Rogers - from 1969 to 1972. But he's also backed every blues legend you can name - from Muddy to Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, and Hubert Sumlin, to Dave and Louis Myers - in more Windy City joints than he can probably remember. Here, Lupkin has assembled a Blue Bella all-star band, including guitarists Moss and Gerry Hundt, Steve Lupkin on bass, Mark Fornier on drums and Tim Wire on keyboards.

“Think It Over Baby” jumps off the starting line like a Rocket 88 heading up Highway 61 to the bright lights of the city. As Moss' guitar flashes Junior Watson, Lupkin's harmonica shows traces of James Cotton's-super harp-meets-Little Walter's- juke.

Lupkin's chromatic and Hundt's guitar vibrato centers “Bad Luck,” on the dark side of the street.

With Moss and Hundt doubling guitars, Lupkin's “Funny Little Thing” revolves around a musical style perfected by Little Walter and the Aces back in the 1950s.

Lupkin's “I'll Be Over You Someday,” is a likable derivative of Wolf's “Sitting On Top Of The World,” with Moss, who spent his formative years wood-shedding throughout Chicago, backing Lupkin's massive acoustic blows.

Lupkin ends the romp with two great tunes. “Where You Goiní,” is seven minutes of slow blues heaven.

Lupkin closes the album with an all out reed assault on the six-minute title cut. The influence of two Jimmy's: Rogers and Reed, runs throughout the tune.

Since he arrived in Chicago in the 1960s, Lupkin survived and learned. Now, with his second on Blue Bella, he's ready to exhale his music. At times you'll hear William Clarke in his vocals, at other times you'll hear Cotton's signature high end blows or massive low end bends, but when it all comes out, there are some tones and runs that are uniquely Lupkin's.

This is clearly an easy little blues pill to swallow.

<- back to Features