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Make room in the Hall of Fame

Showdown!
Showdown!
By Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland

Alligator Records: 1985

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This review first appeared in the January 21, 1986 issue of The Daily Aztec.

Albert Collins and his Icebreakers have been tearing up roadhouse venues for years; Robert Cray and band are the up-and-coming blues act; and Johnny Copeland has had a loyal following for the past decade.

Now, the three of them have been brought together by Alligator's Bruce Iglauer and Dick Shurman to turn out one of the finest blues albums ever recorded.

Each of these three guitarists has a distinct sound, which makes their trading solos a smorgasbord of virtuosity and one-upmanship.

The opening cut, "T-Bone Shuffle," sets the pace for the whole album. Copeland takes the first solo and vocal lead, with Collins second and Cray wrapping the tune up. The effect of these three trading lead spots and solos is some of the best blues guitar yet laid down.

On some songs, one of the trio will sit out and allow the other two a little more spotlight. "Lion's Den," "Black Cat Bone" and "Albert's Alley" feature Collins and Copeland. The two veterans trade both riffs and spoken sides, giving them an easygoing feeling that makes the guitar solos all the more riveting.

On the two songs that Cray wrote, "She's Into Something" and "The Dream," Cray matches Collins nearly note for note, with his impassioned singing showing why he's one of the hottest young blues musicians playing today. Collins' frigid, icy sound is set off by the countrified twang Cray squeezes out of his Strat.

While Cray's songwriting continues to impress, there's not a bad cut on this album. With a backing section of Allen Batts on organ, Johnny B. Gayden on bass and drummer Casey Jones (Collins' regular backing band, the Icebreakers, which also backs Johnny Winter in the studio), the raw ability alone would have been enough to ensure that this album would turn out good.

But it's so much better than merely good.