Title: The Real McCoy
Artist: Alex Dixon
Label: Dixon Landing Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 24, 2020
If electric Chicago blues is your bag, Alex Dixon’s The Real McCoy offers the real deal. The grandson of Willie Dixon, Alex represents the younger generation of Chicago blues royalty and carries on the family tradition as a talented producer, bassist, and pianist. His family also actively works to preserve the history of the genre in the Windy City through the Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the historic Chess Records building. Sharing his love of this history is precisely what Dixon set out to accomplish with his new project: “We were trying to go for authenticity, and I wanted to showcase some of the things that I learned from my grandfather and make the album I’ve always wanted to do.” Joining Dixon in this endeavor are two blues harpists – Sugar Blue and Steve Bell, son of famed harmonica wizard Cary Bell – and other assisting musicians including Lewis “Big Lew” Powell on vocals, Melvin Taylor and Gino Matteo on guitar, and Alvino Bennett on drums.
Dixon was schooled in the blues from an early age, learning electric and upright bass from his grandfather as well as the art of songwriting. His piano teacher, Lafayette Leake, was a Chess session musician featured on Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll classic “Johnny B. Goode.” Other musicians who dropped by the house, such as Little Brother Montgomery, taught young Dixon how to play in other styles. These rock and blues roots are showcased throughout the album, which features many of Alex’s original tunes. Highlights include the rocking title track, “The Real McCoy,” the Sugar Blue harp showcase on the slow grinding “My Greatest Desire,” and Alex’s tribute to the home of the electric blues on “Chi-Town Boogie.”
Also included on the album are selections from Willie Dixon’s catalog previously recorded by the likes of Otis Rush (“Groaning the Blues”), Howlin’ Wolf (“Howlin’ for my Darlin;”), and Buster Benton (“Spider in My Stew”). The Real McCoy might not tread new ground, but it certainly accomplishes its mission as a dynamic showcase of the roots of Chicago blues.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss