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When blues vocal and guitar immortal Lowell Fulson signed with Kent Records in 1964, he was in his forties, with a Hall Of Fame discography already to his credit. He had crafted gems and juke box fixtures like Everyday I Have The Blues, Blue Shadows, Sinner's Prayer, Guitar Shuffle and Reconsider Baby-.-employed Ray Charles and Stanley Turrentine in his road band-.-and been a profound influence on B.B. King, Magic Sam and most of the generation of electric bluesmen who followed him.
His 1964-68 Kent tenure added the dimensions of flexibility and resiliency to his brilliance. After a final straight blues hit with Black Nights, he updated his groove with a shot of funk. The resulting Tramp hit the charts in early 1967, and still echoes around the world via cover versions on recordings (ever since Otis Redding and Carla Thomas jumped on it immediately) and bandstands, and sampling by Cypress Hill, Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince and Prince. When Fulson was done waxing three LPs and a fistful of 45s for Kent, he had demonstrated that his age was a less important number than his chart position.
Ace Records is celebrating the Fulson-Kent alliance with the planned release of three CD compilations. The first release, THE TRAMP YEARS, represents the middle chronologically and the peak commercially. Its twenty-four tracks will appeal to dancers, casual blues fans and even the most seasoned collectors for whom the six previously unissued songs and four extended versions will be new. Kent's failure to issue It Takes Money was a pet peeve of Fulson's-.-listeners can finally hear and judge the song. Along with his standard rhythm section of a second guitarist, bassist and drummer, Fulson is heard in the illustrious company of such west coast blues legends as pianist Lloyd Glenn (who arranged and played on many of his definitive classics), keyboard player and horn arranger Maxwell Davis, songwriting and vocal harmonies by Jimmy McCracklin and even a cameo by George (Harmonica) Smith. The programme is an appealing mix of deep blues, shuffles and the greasy funk grooves that opened a younger set of ears to Fulson, with some lively instrumentals interspersed among the vocals.
The sleeve notes include Fulson's recounting of the circumstances behind an album (and now CD) cover almost as memorable as the music, and his own take on the spelling of his name (Kent used "Fulsom"). Spelling concerns aside, just file THE TRAMP YEARS under finger popping, foot stomping, world-wise blues and funk - and leave room for the next two CDs in the series!
By Dick Shurman