Lonnie Brooks made his name in Chicago, Long John Hunter in West Texas and Phillip Walker in Los Angeles, but all three of these guitar-slinging bluesmen learned their craft in the "Golden Triangle." In that area bounded by Lake Charles, Beaumont and Port Arthur -- where the swamps of South Louisiana meet the piney woods of East Texas -- oil and shrimp workers of the 1950s crowded the honky-tonks. They demanded a boiling gumbo pot of blues, boogie and zydeco according to the recipes drawn up by Guitar Slim, Clifton Chenier, Gatemouth Brown and T-Bone Walker.
So when Phillip Walker, Hunter and Brooks teamed up for an all-star album, "Lone-Star Shootout," they naturally gravitated to their common experiences on the Gulf Coast. Walker, who like Brooks got his start in Chenier's band, sings songs associated with Gatemouth Brown and T-Bone Walker, while Hunter sings a take-off on Guitar Slim's standard, "The Things I Used To Do."
On songs both old and new, the three leaders combine that syncopated swamp beat and those blistering Texas guitar solos as if they were back in the raucous roadhouses of their youth. With guest appearances by Marcia Ball and Ervin Charles, "Lone-Star Shootout" shines the light on a regional sub-genre whose pleasures have too often been overlooked.
On her first two albums, Boston blues belter Michelle Willson revived vintage material associated with such heroines as Dinah Washington and Etta James and in the process won flattering comparisons to Tracy Nelson and Lou Ann Barton. For her third disc, "Tryin' To Make a Little Love," Willson turns her attention to more contemporary blues material, including previously unreleased songs from such modern masters as Dan Penn, Dr. John and Doc Pomus. More new songs are provided by Joan Osborne (the title track) and Los Lobos ("Someday"), and Willson delivers all these soul-blues numbers with a dramatic understatement that further highlights the range of her talent.
Appearing with Roy Carrier, Guy Davis, Daryl Davis and the Blueshounds at the D.C. Blues Fest '99 Saturday at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre. To hear a free Sound Bite from Lonnie Brooks, Long John Hunter and Phillip Walker, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8110. For a free Sound Bite from Michelle Willson, press 8111. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)