When blues pianist Henry Gray released Lucky Man in 1990, it was his first solo American album despite years of recording and playing with Howlin’ Wolf. This release is the reissue of the original vinyl LP. Outside of a cover of Fats Domino’s “My Girl Josephine,” Lucky Man is straight-up Windy City blues. For the most part, Gray cherry picks the songbooks of Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, J.B. Lenoir and Big Maceo, all artists he backed at one point. Rogers’ mournful “Out on the Road” is especially effective, as is Jimmy Reed’s witty “Boogie in the Dark.”
There are a smattering of Gray originals throughout, including the title track, a tale about a guy who can’t lose at love or gambling (that is a lucky man!). “Cold Chills” is an exemplary slow blues where Gray really gives the treble end of the keyboard a workout, and “It Ain’t No Use” is an attractive slowish blues that Gray takes credit for, but he “borrowed” it from Swamp Dogg via Z.Z. Hill.
Backed by several noted Chicago sidemen and recorded in that city, one gets the feeling Gray knocked this album out in about three or four hours. But that’s something pros can do.