Snooks Eaglin – known as “The Human Jukebox” for the unmatched catalog of songs in his head – first surfaced in the 1950s New Orleans scene. As a guitarist with Allen Toussaint, he was on hand for the elemental forging of blues, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. He recorded under his own name for the Imperial label until it folded in 1963, and then only sporadically until he caught on with Black Top twenty-four years later. This 1987 album was the first in a run of five for Black Top, and shows off his encyclopedic knowledge, dexterous guitar playing, low-key vocals, straight blues sensibility and the funky second lines he carried from New Orleans.
Backed by a veteran Crescent City rhythm section of Erving Charles Jr. on bass and Smokey Johnson on drums (the latter of whom backed Eaglin on his early ’60s sessions for Imperial), legendary session saxophonist David Lastle, and the highly regarded pianist/organist Ron Levy, the group hits a groove on all eleven tracks. A few, such as the original “Oh Sweetness,” fades just as the band seems to be warming up for an extended jam. The song list includes straight blues, New Orleans second-lines, James Brown funk, and an instrumental salute to the Ventures in a cover of “Perfidia.” Eaglin also takes to R&B ballads, such as Percy Mayfield’s “Baby Please” and Dave Bartholomew’s “Lavinia.”
In addition to three originals, Eaglin resurrects tunes associated with Guitar Slim, Earl King, Smiley Lewis, and The Four Blazes. The album closes with the irresistible Crescent City funk of “Pretty Girls Everywhere,” which at 3’35 would need to be played twice to keep dancers happy. Eaglin’s at the top of his game threading his leads around his accompanists, providing driving rhythm lines and singing with a confident, easy swing. His early recordings for Imperial are worth tracking down, but for a full dose of his eclectic range, you can’t top this album. [Â©2009 hyperbolium dot com]