Old School

The queen of the blues is back! After recovering from a life-threatening medical condition four years ago, Koko Taylor returned to the scene in 2006 with a series of well-received live performances that, after a seven-year hiatus, prompted her return to the studio. Taylor, who hit it big in 1964 with the chart-busting “Wang Dang Doodle,” contributed five originals while paying homage to one of her early heroes, Memphis Minnie, whose “Black Rat” (about a lowlife who’s about to get booted out of her life) serves as a musical template for Taylor’s own cautionary tales about the battle of the sexes. In both “You Ain’t Worth a Good Woman” and “Better Watch Your Step,” Taylor advises her man to shape up. However, she holds out hope with Magic Sam’s “All Your Love,” and—my favorite—her own “Hard Pill to Swallow,” another man-done-me-wrong song (“It’s so hard to leave you and even harder to be alone”). Now 78, Taylor’s still a powerful singer and, as she says in the liner notes, “I love singing the real, old school blues. That’s old school. That’s me.”