Fortifiers, “Live” (Independent)

fortifiers-live-300x292Louisiana has produced some of the world’s best harmonica players, and legends like Little Walter, Lazy Lester and Slim Harpo live on in recordings like Live by the Fortifiers. On Live, the Fortifiers take you rolling and tumbling from Louisiana up to Chicago and back down to Louisiana. Recorded live at Tipitina’s in July of 2016, Live is a twenty-minute infusion of postwar blues. In fact, Jeb Baldwin (harp, vocals), Rudebelly (bass), Rodger Martin (drums), and the twin guitar work of Sonny Schneidau and Gerald McCollam will let you know that the blues are indeed alive and well.

Things get heated up right away with Rudebelly and Martin creating a pocket for Baldwin to come in blowing on Little Walter’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” and it is evident from the start that Jeb Baldwin’s harp playing is going to be a major highlight of the recording. Jay Miller’s “I Hear You Knockin’” follows, and it shuffles along in a manner that would make Jimmy Reed proud while honoring Lazy Lester. “My Babe,” one of three Willie Dixon songs featured on Live, was written for Little Walter and is perfectly suited for the vocals and harp of Jeb Baldwin. On “Help Me,” the Fortifiers hit a solid groove augmented by Sonny Schneidau who is given the opportunity to shine with some solid organ work. Next up, Rudebelly gets a chance to hold down the vocals on Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and does an agreeable job of trying to convey the sheer guttural vocal power of Howlin’ Wolf. The set closes with a take on Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” that had to bring down the house.

Live shows that the Fortifiers are clearly comfortable in who they are and what they do. While the world will never again see the likes of blues men like Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Slim Harpo, it’s recordings like this that keep the spirit of the blues alive. So if you are feeling blues deficient, then it is time to get fortified.