Snooky Pryor – Can’t Stop Blowin’
All but one of the musicians backing Pryor on these sessions had had the privilege of playing with him before. The inclusion of Texas-guitar ace Mel Brown was a rare treat as his delectable licks added a smooth but pungent zest to the musical milieu. Snooky and Mel hadn't seen each other in years, yet their music dovetailed seamlessly, their chemistry as potent as if they'd just come off a long stretch on the road together.
"Me and Mel, we used to jam together," Snooky explains. "I don't have to tell him nothin'. All I have to do is look at him, and he know when to get out at and when to come in at." The two of them were playing together at Clifford Antone's club in Austin, Texas, in 1989 when Mel moved up to Canada to work at Pop the Gator in Kitchener, Ontario. "We go way back. Well, you see there used to be top bands comin' down there [at Antone's], and me and Mel used to take care of 'em," Pryor laughs. "All these big guys used to come in down there, and the next day you wouldn't see nobody's name in the paper but Snooky Pryor and Mel Brown," he chuckles. "Me and Mel, we been diggin' one another for a long time."
While the songwriting ability of many artists withers as they age, Snooky's exceptional writing talent is unrelenting, and he brought several previously unrecorded originals to these sessions. "Oh, just sometime I'll be out on the lake fishing or laying in bed and things come to me," he says of the songwriting process. "I get up and write it down. Then here comes something else; I write it down. And then I got a little tape machine that I put the words and things down on, then go and put the music to it."
Pryor writes primarily from personal experience. "A while back I was in Europe, and I got kinda sick over there," Pryor reveals, explaining the story behind "I Got To Give It Up." "I took the flu and everything else, you know, and I got weak, and so I thought about givin' up music. . . . That's why you hear me say, ‘I been to Haarlem. I been to Amsterdam.' I had such fun down there. Everybody was crazy about me, crazy about my playin', and so that's why I put that in there. ‘People down there they love me. They know who I am. I got to give it up 'cause it's gettin' too rough for me. I been tossed, I been tumblin', I been 'cross the deep blue sea.' That's what that song was all about."
"I Been Crucified" also portrays the challenges he's faced in his life. "So many years and tough times and peoples gettin' in your way and tryin' to block you," Snooky says. "I wrote that song last year. . . . I won't let nothin' get in my way; I won't let nothin' stop me."
The sentiments behind "Ain't Nobody's Business" are unmistakable: "You know people try to run people's business and don't want you to do different things. Everybody's got their mouth into other people's business. I ain't been long with that song."
Of the exquisite ballad "Boots 'n' Saddle," Pryor remarks, "Me and my kids got together on that, and I put that together. That ain't been too long ago." While it isn't based on a specific event, Snooky says, "I just liked that tone and everything and was changin' up the music and goin' for something a little bit different on harmonica. You don't catch harmonica playin' that kind of stuff, that third position." Of course, it was Pryor who invented third position on the harp. His 1947 disc "Stockyard Blues" was the first recorded example of this technique.
When asked about the evolution of the song "I Heard The News," Snooky recalls, "Me and Homesick James rehearsed that together, and I told him this would be a good song to move people out [on the dance floor] and let 'em enjoy."
"Don't Worry About Me" is a bittersweet remembrance of Snooky's devotion to Louella, his wife of 53 years. "She used to worry about me traveling so much, talkin' about planes are gonna fall and all that stuff. She never did like to travel. I would tell her all the time, ‘Don't worry about me.'" Tragically, it was Louella who met her death while traveling; she died in a head-on car crash on October 5, 1993.
While "I Learnt My Lesson Well" and "Goin' Away To Worry You Off My Mind" also refer to personal experiences, Snooky prefers to keep those private. "Just like the name Snooky," he says, drawing a parallel. "You probably saw it in different papers and things people have asked me how did I get the name Snooky. I ain't told 'em yet."
"I'm well pleased," admits Pryor, referring to his stellar performance on Can't Stop Blowin'. "I know you got a pretty good record there." Like many other old-time blues masters, Pryor isn't a musician who dallies over recording a song. For him it's either there or it's not; there's no use taping take after take. "That's the way to cut it," he maintains. "Like a billy goat fightin' a bear."
As Mel Brown wryly commented after one false start by the band, "There's a right way and there's a wrong way, and there's a Snooky way." - Sandra B Tooze
1. Slow Down - 5:56 2. I Got to Give It Up - 4:41 3. I Learnt My Lesson Well - 5:39 4. Ain't Nobody's Business - 5:34 5. Don't Worry About Me - 3:23 6. Got to Find My Baby - 4:27 7. Goin' Down Slow - 5:25 8. Someone to Love Me - 5:04 9. When Things Go Wrong With You (It Hurts Me Too) - 4:55 10. I've Got My Eyes on You - 3:55 11. I Been Crucified - 3:58 12. I Heard the News - 5:20 13. Boots 'N' Saddle - 3:03
Snooky Pryor (vocals, harmonica) , Morgan Davis (guitar on 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11) , Teddy Leonard (guitar on 10) , Curtis Thibodeau (electric bass) , Tyler Yarema (piano on 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11) , Michael Fonfara (piano on 12, organ on 11) , Mike Fitzpatrick (drums)
1. In its survey of the best discs of 1999, Soul Bag magazine charted
Can't Stop Blowin' as one of the best CDs of 1999. It's readers voted it number seven; the staff put the CD at number five.
More Superb Snooky!
This was around the time that Snooky formed a partnership with guitar virtuoso Mel Brown, who is also sounding very good here. Mel had several records of his own and was with Bobby Bland for many years. His solos are always interesting with great technique, taste and tone.
It's great to hear Snooky, one of the founders of Chicago Blues sing some of the all time great songs like It Hurts Me Too and Goin' Down Slow or Got To Find My Baby, but Snooky is a clever lyricist with several good ones here, including Slow Down and I Learnt My Lesson Well. A good mix of fast and slow ones, and over an hour of great blues!
Snooky delivers great harp with some amazingly powerful vocals on this one, and although 78 years old, he doesn't miss a beat. Highest recommendations!
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