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CD REVIEW -- Alex Dixon
WGLT Highway 309

ALEX DIXON

The Real McCoy

Dixon Landing Music

Alex Dixon Real McCoy CD

by Jeff Johnson

Some musicians grow up in the Mississippi Delta, the Cradle of the Blues. For Alex Dixon, his cradle was the blues.

Dixon was reared in the home of his grandparents, Willie and Marie Dixon, on the South Side of Chicago. With his new album The Real McCoy, he puts the lessons learned at the knee of his granddad, the legendary songwriter-bassist-vocalist-producer-talent scout, to good use. The patriarch of a three-generation musical dynasty, Willie Dixon penned many of the biggest hits recorded by Chicago blues icons such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Five of his compositions are included on The Real McCoy: “Groaning the Blues,” “Howlin’ for My Darling,” “Spider in My Stew,” “When I Make Love” and the bonus track “I Want to Be Loved.”

While Willie’s spirit is a guiding light for Alex’s album, it’s also a jumping-off point for the younger Dixon’s ode to the music that made Chicago famous. The songs “Nothing New Under the Sun” and “The Real McCoy” sound the next-man-up theme, and the reflexive top-tapper “Chi-Town Boogie,” powered by Steve Bell’s tasty harmonica chops, conjures Bell’s dad, Carey Bell, as well as Willie Dixon protégé Little Walter. The latter tune, with not much more than the three title words as lyrics, is so infectious it’s also included as a “bonus” instrumental version that closes the disc. Its main rival as the best of The Real McCoy is the deep-in-the-pocket “Spider in My Stew,” the early ‘70s Buster Benton song.

Dixon has assembled a crack lineup of mostly Chicago artists, headed by harpists Bell and Sugar Blue; vocalist Big Lew Powell, who does a more than passable Willie Dixon impersonation; guitarists Melvin Taylor, Gino Matteo, Rico McFarland and Jerry Delgado; and drummer Alvino Bennett. Dixon establishes his own cred as a hyphenate, playing electric and upright bass and piano, writing, arranging and producing. It’s in the production area that Dixon could take a cue from his granddaddy He should revisit Willie’s I Am the Blues, a 1970 album on which he puts his own voice to some of his great songwriting triumphs. Willie Dixon’s production is a study in economy, where he gives each number a chance to breathe. Alex, on the other hand, seems awestruck by his talented castmates, opting for an in-your-face sound that is too busy for listeners to fully appreciate the contributions of each instrumentalist.

Nevertheless, Dixon has captured the grit and grind of the classic Chicago blues sound without being handcuffed by tradition.

For info or to buy the music:

www.vintagedixon.com

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