It’s hard to remember the last time New Orleans had a good old-fashioned blues summit meeting, but that’s more or less what Ron Hacker and his very famous friends have done with this live release, recorded on three separate dates last April thanks to Ron, who is tangentially connected to Sleepy John Estes, landing a job booking acts at the Mint. But this is no open-mic night, not with Johnny Sansone, John Fohl, Jason Ricci and Nancy Wright sitting in. That kind of firepower doesn’t necessarily lead to the local blues album of the year, but it did this time. As one of Hacker’s rare originals proclaims, he does a pretty good job at trying to “Sing Like Elmore James,” but like all good live blues albums, this one is mostly about the groove, which is practically an encapsulation of every great electric blues style the American heartland has produced.
The first third, which features Sansone on harmonica and accordion, is straight Chicago blues, although Johnny’s squeezebox on the traditional “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and Willie Dixon’s “Evil” are a revelation about the missing link between Cajun music, swamp blues and its Midwest counterpart. The second third, featuring Fohl on guitar and Nancy Wright on saxophone, wanders between the Excello sound of Nashville (check out Slim Harpo’s “Gonna Miss You (Like the Devil)” and the jazzier Memphis strain found in Sleepy John Estes’ “Going to Brownsville” and the deathless “It Hurts Me Too.”
The four songs that wrap things up are pure Chicago all the way, with Jason Ricci doing his best Little Walter on harp and Hacker’s originals sitting comfortably and unobtrusively next to Estes’ and Jimmy Rogers’. Hacker even proves his cred once and for all by climaxing with “Two Timin’ Woman,” a rave up about his ex that’s fueled by real cuckold anger and humiliation and tempered with humorous bookends: “Y’all woulda loved my first wife,” he snickers. “She loved all my friends.” Then, after eviscerating the memories with his guitar: “Yeah, she was a good old gal.” A real authentic barn burner, this one.