Live at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards, Vol. 1

Named after the “father of the blues,” the Handy Awards, held in Memphis in May, is the blues equivalent of the Grammys. This live CD features some of the nominees and award winners in performance (1996-2001) before an audience of their peers, and they really deliver the goods! Joe Louis Walker opens solo (on slide guitar) with a slick take of his “Bluesifying” followed by Luther Allison with an anguished rendition of his 1996 award-winning “Cherry Red Wine,” recorded just 15 months before his untimely death. The CD compiler’s wit (and taste) shows by having Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers’ version of the Joe Turner classic, “Low Down Dog,” precede Rufus Thomas’s horn-fueled, high-octane edition of his trademark “Walking the Dog.” There’s not a clinker on the 10-song disc, but there are some surprises: Susan Tedeschi turns in an intense “Just Won’t Burn,” while Taj Mahal (with horns) revitalizes Horace Silver’s slinky “Senor Blues” with lyrics. Short of being there, this is as good as it’s going to get.