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Young Man Blues

Mighty Joe Young
Got a Hold on Us: Mighty Joe Young shows off his
undiminished skills on a new album.

Despite his years, Mighty Joe Young proves he's still a blues contender on 'Mighty Man'

By Nicky Baxter

A DECADE AGO, blues artist "Mighty" Joe Young was in a hospital recovering from surgery for a pinched nerve in his neck. This wouldn't be good news for a man half Young's age; for a 60-year-old, it could have proven devastating. But the journeyman bluesman, after a year of rehabilitation, began the long, grueling process of reconstructing his career. Although he has yet to regain feeling in his fingers, the Louisiana native is otherwise as fit as a prizefighter, which he was before turning to music in the first place. The title of his new release, Mighty Man (Blind Pig), is less a boast than a declaration of fact. Though unapologetically bluesy, Young's music is anything but 12-bar generic; it is enriched with rhythm and soul stylings.

"Turning Point" is perhaps the album's most soulful tune. Young reveals his roots here; Tyrone Davis, whom Young backed on the latter's "Baby, Can I Change My Mind," could just have easily written and sung this number. It is distinguished by the barely reigned-in passion of Young's lead vocal, the heated blasts of brass and some clipped "dee-dee-oops" in the background that comment on the singer's plaints. Another R&B number, "Got a Hold on Me," is propelled by some splashy brass figures--arranged by Gene Barge and Willie Henderson--and Joe Young Jr.'s chicken-scratch rhythm guitar. Having all but abandoned the guitar, Joe Young Sr. concentrates on the vocals. No cut better illustrates Young's way with hyphenated blues than "Bring It on Home," an after-hours lament that flaunts tensile B.B. King­like licks, heavy-hearted horns and mournful pleas for forgiveness.

Ten years in the making, Mighty Man is well worth the wait. It's unfortunate that Young plays guitar on only two tracks--"Starvation" and "Got My Mind on My Woman"--but the good news is that as a songwriter, singer and producer, the septuagenarian more than lives up to his nickname.

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From the July 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro.

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