Tue 7 Aug 2007
I've often heard and read that the 1970's wasn't a good period for blues; from a popularity standpoint that may have been true but certainly not from a recording standpoint. One of the era's true masterpieces is Fenton Robinson's magnificent "Somebody Loan me A Dime" cut for Alligator in 1974. Fenton had been recording sporadically since the late 1950's, cutting some terrific material, but "Somebody Loan me A Dime" was his pinnacle.
Fenton was the antithesis of Alligator's Genuine Houserocking Music slogan, playing and singing with a subtlety and imagination far removed from the rest of the label's roster. Fittingly, his Japanese fans dubbed him "the mellow blues genius." Fenton's guitar playing draws deeply from B.B. King and T-Bone Walker but with a strong jazzy inflection and plenty of grit; his guitar darts and weaves in unexpected directions, is full of probing invention and breaks out into some truly stupendous solos. His voice is a thing of beauty, a deep, rich baritone that glides along and is a perfect counterpoint to his elegant guitar work.
The title tracks envelopes the listener, opening with a dramatic drum shuffle before Fenton's bold guitar intro kicks in with amazing power. There's a timeless quality to this song that has classic stamped all over it. Another dramatic opening for "Directly From My Heart To You" as Fenton lays down a thick, probing guitar vamp pushed along by some pulsing horns before breaking into a stunning, soaring falsetto vocal that's enough to set the hairs on your neck on end. The production throughout is a model of perfection and the band impeccable. The funky, minor-key "You Don't Know What Love Is" throbs along with a subtly and complexity rarely heard in blues circles, "You Say You're Leaving" is a gentle swinger as Fenton unleashes a draw dropping solo, while the gorgeous "Texas Flood" (Fenton played guitar on Larry Davis' original) strips the songs to it's essence. From top to bottom every song is a winner making for an enthralling experience when listening to the album in it's entirety.
Fenton had cut a number of these songs previously but this is one of the rare cases where the remakes pack even greater power. Fenton never again recorded anything quite as powerful although his Alligator follow-up, "I Hear Some Blues Downstairs" (1977), had many fine moments.
Somebody Loan Me A Dime (MP3)