Cleanly picked solos, tasty ES335 tones, and a vibrato that moves effortlessly from smooth wiggle to sweet sting make larry Burton's Hustler's Paradise (Brambus Records dist. by North Country Distributors, Cadence Building Redwood, NY 13679) a hip trip to Chicago's West Side. Backed by local veterans, Burton projects a cool, eyes-closed feel on ten originals ranging from uptown slow blues to funky shuffles á la Freddie King.
Though Hustler's Paradise showcases Burton's fluid leads, the soft spoken native Chicagoan earned his blues strips playing rhythm behind Albert Collins, Albert King and Koko Taylor. His stint with Collin's Icebreakers included appearances on 1978's classic Ice Pickin', the Handy Award winning Don't Lose Your Cool, and the fast and furious Live In Japan.
"Yeah, way back in 1979 Albert was saying,"You've got to get your own band", Burton chuckles. "It just took me a long time." Of course, playing with one's childhood heroes could be a challange. Burton explains, "I had to go from listening to their recordings growing up and copying their licks, to consciously staying away from playing their stuff, it forced me to edit my playing , to be more original."
now that he's the front man, Burton is still juggling influences. Though he came of age surrounded by urban blues, other inspirations find their way into his songs, like the intro to "Dark Clouds," which sounds more than a bit like "Spanish Castle Magic." "Oh, yeah," Larry smiles. "When I first heard Jimi Hendrix, it was a whole new ball game. "That intro is a definite nod in his direction."
Already at work on his next album, Burton still craves the live gig: "Reaching the people, touching some part of them so they can take something home-that's magic. What more can you ask for?" GREGORY ISOLA - Guitar Player Magazine - November, 1993
Larry Burton is an exceptional songwriter with the indispensable ability to paint vivid word pictures: "By the time I reaced the city limits/He was already there/before I crossed the county line your legs were in the air" comes from "How Could I Be Such a Fool." He can also spin you on your heels with a trenchant line like "I went to Chicago on a lark/They had turned the blues into a theme park" in (Good Idea at the Time"), or put crack heads in poetic perspective: "sun comes up, sun goes down/It doesn't matter if you're not around" (Pipe Dream). And on a haunting ode to the blues (The Blues Just Stay the Same") Burton waxes: Heartache and misfortune are seldom tame/They present themselves to you by many diierant names/But the blues, yes, the blues just stay the same."
It is primarily as a guitarist that Larry Burton has earned his keep, and his playing leaves no mystery why he has worked steady for many years. He can rock as hard as any teen wonder(but with the taste and maturity of a man) or slow down to a heart-stopping, out-of-phase electric slide, as he does on the shimmering instrumental "Delta Sundown." Overall, The Blues Just Stay the Same is a very fine effort.
A quality album recorded in Niederglatt, Switzerland in October 1998 and released 1999, Larry Burton, Live @ PJ'S Blues Stop (Babylon Records), is a good example of a live performance by Burton and his very tight, international band. The line-up comprises Larry Burton, Kurt Bislin, Benno Rupp & Koni Eisenhut, with a guest appearance by Mojo Buford, who plays some excellent harp throughout and takes the vocals on Sonny Boy Williamson's "In My Younger Days," with the whole band showing a touch of genius. It is very closely followed by the very moody "Stuck In Chicago," a number penned by Burton and showcasing haunting harp playing by Mojo Buford. This is an excellent CD, in a similar vein to the 1997 The Blues Just Stay the Same, and it shows that Larry Burton writes as well as he plays the guitar.
This is a video of me and my friend, an excellent piano player named Tony Llorens, with whom I sat in with at The Chicago Blues Festival in 2007.
All songs written and published by Larry Burton, Churchboy Music BMI, except "Tillie Toot Shuffle" written by Tony Llorens and "As The Years Go Passing By" written by Deadric Malone, Duchess Music Corp.