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One of the best

The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson
The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson
By Sonny Boy Williamson II

Chess Records / MCA: 1993

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Clownin' With the World
Clownin' With the World
By Sonny Boy Williamson II and Willie Love

Alligator Records: 1993

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These reviews first appeared in the September 10, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Rice Miller, better known by his adopted moniker of Sonny Boy Williamson, was one of the most imaginative and stylistically original harmonica players the blues has produced. (Early in his career, he took the name of the then-better known John "Sonny Boy" Williamson, a Chicago-based harpist, so today most music historians refer to Miller as "Sonny Boy Williamson II.")

These two releases are both drawn from his most roductive recording years, from the 1950s through the early '60s. The Alligator set is a reissue of sides Williamson recorded for the small Trumpet label; the MCA two-disc set is taken from the Chess Records vaults. Both are representative of Williamsonson's best work, displaying his impressive combination of world-weary vocals and searing harmonica solos.

The MCA set contains an informative and well-written booklet that makes reference to additional Trumpet recordings not on the Alligator release – offering the promise of future releases from the Trumpet series.