Chicago Blues Greats Join Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
on Historic New Album Chicago Plays The Stones,
out September 14 (Raisin’ Music Records)
with Buddy Guy, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer,
Leanne Faine, Billy Branch, Jimmy Burns, Billy Boy Arnold, Michael Avery, Omar Coleman, Carlos Johnson & The Living History Band
Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and two generations of Chicago blues stars unite to give the songs of the Rolling Stones a remarkable rebirth. Stripping those rock songs down to their Chicago-blues essence is not only an idea that’s inventive and unprecedented–it’s also an idea that makes PERFECT SENSE. Chicago Plays the Stones (September 14 / Raisin’ Music Records), the first project of its kind to include Jagger and Richards,brings the songs of Jagger-Richards back to their spiritual home and their point of origin, and cements a 55-year love affair that changed the course of music. It’s an enduring, ongoing musical and fraternal connection between Jagger-Richards and their Chicago blues heroes that continues to reverberate like the famous echo chamber at 2120 S. Michigan Ave.
Ever since ’62, Mick and Keith have wanted to get as close as they could be to Chicago blues. On the Rolling Stones’ first album (1964): A Jimmy Reed song and a Willie Dixon song. On the Rolling Stone’s last album (2016): A Jimmy Reed song and a Willie Dixon song. In between: A recording session at Chess Records, a tour with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, a gig with Muddy Waters at the Checkerboard Lounge, and so it goes.
Just as fate brought Jagger and Richards together in a chance meeting on a train facilitated by the Muddy Waters record Keith was carrying, fate landed this project into the hands of Don Was, who happened to be producing The Stones’ own tribute to Chicago blues, Blue & Lonesome. He played it for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who loved the versions of their music and made their own contributions: Mick on Buddy Guy’s hair-raising “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” and Keith on Jimmy Burns’ rollicking, loose-limbed “Beast of Burden.”
The featured players on Chicago Plays the Stonesare the true inheritors and torchbearers of that sound. John Primer, who takes on “Angie” and a whomping “Let It Bleed,” is a Chicago blues icon in his own right, with decades of playing with Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim on his resume. Mississippi-born Jimmy Burns moved to the Windy City as a child with his family, and by the time he hit his teens he was singing blues in the bohemian clubs and coffeehouses of the early folk revival era.
On Chicago Plays the Stones, Ronnie Baker Brooks turns “Satisfaction” into a bouncy, Good Morning Little School Girl style jukejoint romp. That’s the first Stones cut that Chicago-born harmonica player Billy Branch, the triple Grammy nominee who brings a smoldering “Sympathy for the Devil” to the album, remembers hearing as a young man. And in fact, as he recalls it, it was the Rolling Stones that helped bring him to the blues.
Other highlights include legendary 82-year-old blues harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold singing a mean and low-down “Play with Fire,” a take on the iconic “Gimme Shelter” from gospel singer Leanne Faine that crackles like a lightning storm, and a slow-simmering “Miss You” from soul singer Michael Avery.
Produced by Larry Skoller, whose Chicago Blues: A Living Historywas nominated for the 2010 Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy, Chicago Plays The Stones marks the inaugural release for a new record label run by the Chicago Blues Experience, a proposed immersive blues museum and venue in the works in Chicago.
“I was inspired by the challenge to take Rolling Stones songs and turn them into Chicago blues grooves, while at the same time maintaining both the Chicago blues tradition and sound and doing the same for the Rolling Stones songs,” Skoller said.
“The thing was to really keep the integrity of the melody and the harmony, and to have them kind of reimagined at the origins. And imagining Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson, all these guys, how they would have interpreted these songs back then, if they were doing them.”
“The opportunity to have been able to rearrange these songs, and to work with the top Chicago guys of two generations, and to be able to pay tribute to the Stones, to be able to bring them back to the musical origins of their own songs… felt historic,” Skoller said. “They really are reverent about the tradition and the music that inspired them and took them to where they went, and where they are.”
Chicago Plays The Stones tracklisting
Let It Bleed – John Primer
Play with Fire – Billy Boy Arnold
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger
Satisfaction – Ronnie Baker Brooks
Sympathy for the Devil – Billy Branch
Angle – John Primer
Gimmie Shelter – Leanne Faine
Beast of Burden – Jimmy Burns, Keith Richards
Miss You – Michael Avery
I Go Wild – Omar Coleman
Out of Control – Carlos Johnson
Dead Flowers – Jimmy Burns
Preorder available here beginning 7/13.