William Earl Branch

b. October 3rd, 1951 in Great Lakes (Illinois)

BRING ME ANOTHER HALF A PINT

Barrelhouse

March 1975

Né à Great Lakes dans la banlieue nord de Chicago, il passe quelques années à Los Angeles avant de revenir à Great Lakes. Billy débute l'harmonica vers 1969 alors encore étudiant. Devenu un musicien régulier du Theresa's Lounge, il travaille pour le pianiste Jimmy Walker qui le prend sous son aile. Dès 1975, il tourne avec les Chicago Blues All Stars de Willie Dixon où il apprend le métier d'harmoniciste avec Carey Bell. Dans cette anthologie, on trouve ses deux premiers titres produits par Steve Wisner dans le South Side de Chicago (initialement prévus pour le label Mr Blues et revendus à Barrelhouse) : l'instrumental "Billy's boogie" et la reprise de "Hoochie coochie man".

Born in Great Lakes in the northern suburbs of Chicago, he spent a few years in Los Angeles before returning to Great Lakes. Billy started the harmonica around 1969 while still a student. Became a regular musician at Theresa's Lounge, he works for pianist Jimmy Walker, who takes him under his wing. In 1975, he toured with Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All Stars where he learned the profession of harmonicist with Carey Bell. In this anthology, we find his first two titles produced by Steve Wisner in Chicago's South Side (originally planned for the Mr Blues label and resold to Barrelhouse) : the instrumental "Billy's boogie" and the cover of "Hoochie coochie man".

LIVING CHICAGO BLUES vol.3 (lp & cd)

Alligator

Sonet

Summer 1978

En 1977, il forme les Sons of the Blues avec Lurrie Bell (fils de Carey Bell) et Freddie Dixon (fils de Willie Dixon). Lors du Berlin Jazz Festival, pour le concert The New Generation of Chicago Blues, ils jouent leur fameux "Berlin wall" qui attire l'attention sur eux. Cette anthologie légendaire fut supervisée par Bruce Iglauer pour regrouper les meilleurs bluesmen de Chicago. Billy Branch et ses Sons of the Blues jouent ici trois excellents titres dont deux superbes compositions de Billy Branch : "Berlin wall" (composé avec Lucius Barner) et "Prisoner of the blues".

In 1977, he formed the Sons of the Blues with Lurrie Bell (son of Carey Bell) and Freddie Dixon (son of Willie Dixon). At the Berlin Jazz Festival, for the New Generation of Chicago Blues concert, they play their famous "Berlin wall" which draws attention to them. This legendary anthology was supervised by Bruce Iglauer to bring together Chicago's best bluesmen. Billy Branch and his Sons of the Blues play three excellent songs, including two great compositions from Billy Branch : "Berlin wall" (composed with Lucius Barner) and "Prisoner of the blues".

CHICAGO'S YOUNG BLUES GENERATION

L+R

Evidence

June 1982

Pour leur premier vrai disque, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell et les Sons of the Blues délivrent un pur album de Chicago Blues produit par Horst Lippmann pour le label allemand L+R. Billy s'y montre un excellent technicien de l'harmonica et un honnête chanteur, Lurrie un chanteur et guitariste très créatif. Derrière les deux leaders, la section rythmique composée d'Eli Murray (guitare), J.W. Williams (basse) et Mose Rutues Jr (batterie) est solide et parfaitement efficace. Ne comprenant que des reprises, la set-list aurait sans doute encore gagnée en attractivité avec quelques compositions originales. En dépit de cela, le disque possède de nombreux moments très intenses comme "Don't start me talkin'", "I need you so bad", "Breakin' up somebody's home" et "Mystery train".

For their first real record, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and the Sons of the Blues deliver a pure Chicago Blues album produced by Horst Lippmann for the German label L+R. Billy is an excellent harmonica technician and an honest singer, Lurrie a very creative singer and guitarist. Behind the two leaders, the rhythm section composed of Eli Murray (guitar), J.W. Williams (bass) and Mose Rutues Jr (drums) is solid and perfectly effective. Only including covers, the set-list would have probably gained in attractiveness with some original compositions. Despite this, the record has many very intense moments like "Don't start me talkin'", "I need you so bad", "Breakin' up somebody's home" and "Mystery train".

AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVAL '82

L+R

November 1982

Invité pour l'American Folk Blues Festival de 1982, on trouve notamment ici ses trios d'harmonica avec Carey Bell et Phil Wiggins. Si le premier "Tribute to Big Walter" - quoiqu'inégal - peut intéresser l'auditeur, le second "Blues harp blues by three" me semble plus ennuyeux.

Invited for the American Folk Blues Festival of 1982, we find here in particular his harmonica trios with Carey Bell and Phil Wiggins. If the first "Tribute to Big Walter" - although uneven - may interest the listener, the second "Blues harp blues by three" seems more boring.

AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVAL '82

Amiga

November 1982

LIVE '82

Evidence

November 1982

Enregistré lors de la tournée de l'American Folk Blues Festival organisée par Horst Lippmann et Fritz Rau, ce CD ne parait qu'en 1994. La performance scénique s'avère plutôt correcte même si elle échoue à recréer la puissance de son précédent opus "Chicago's young blues generation".

Recorded during the tour of the American Folk Blues Festival organized by Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau, this CD only released in 1994. The stage performance is rather correct even if it fails to recreate the power of his previous opus "Chicago's young blues generation".

WHERE'S MY MONEY

Red Beans

Steeplechase

Evidence

August - September 1983

Pour cet album, Carlos Johnson remplace Lurrie Bell au sein des Sons of the Blues. La production est l'oeuvre du groupe, de Pete Crawford et d'Erwin Helfer (fondateur du label Red Beans). Comme souvent, les parties d'harmonica de Billy sont superbes. Il semble tout de même moins convaincant au chant (il ne chante d'ailleurs que sur quatre pistes). On retient "Where's my money", "Son of juke" et "Sons of blues". A noter une belle participation du pianiste Jimmy Walker sur "Third degree".

For this album, Carlos Johnson replaces Lurrie Bell in the Sons of the Blues. The production is the work of the group, Pete Crawford and Erwin Helfer (founder of the Red Beans label). As often, Billy's harmonica parts are superb. However, he seems less convincing on singing duties (he sings only on four tracks). We point out "Where's my money", "Son of juke" and "Sons of blues". Note a beautiful participation of pianist Jimmy Walker on "Third degree".

ROMANCING THE BLUE STONE

Blue Phoenix

Black & Blue

AS THE YEARS GO PASSING BY

Black & Blue

May 1985

Cette fois-ci, le poste de guitariste est tenu par Carl Weathersby et la section rythmique par les habitués (J.W. Williams, Mose Rutues). On trouve de bonnes compositions des membres du groupe ("You've stayed away too long", "In my lonely room") et des reprises convaincantes ("I'm going fishing baby", "As the years go passing by"). On peut aussi signaler "In the ghetto" avec la participation du guitariste Buster Benton.

This time, the guitarist position is held by Carl Weathersby and the rhythm section by the regulars (J.W. Williams, Mose Rutues). There are good compositions of the band members ("You're staying away too long", "In my lonely room") and convincing covers ("I'm going fishing baby", "As the years go passing by") . We can also report "In the ghetto" with the participation of the guitarist Buster Benton.

THE NEW BLUEBLOODS

Alligator

Sonet

1986

Dans cette anthologie, les Sons of the Blues inteprètent l'excellent "The only thing that saved me" (chanté par J.W. Williams).

In this anthology, the Sons of the Blues play the excellent "The only thing that saved me" (sung by J.W. Williams).

HARP ATTACK

Alligator

Spring - Summer 1990

Quatre grands noms de l'harmonica blues rassemblés au Streeterville Studios de Chicago par Bruce Iglauer pour une réunion fantastique. Billy joue avec les autres sur le titre d'ouverture "Down home blues", chante le superbe "Who" (une reprise de Little Walter) ainsi que sa propre composition "New kid on the block". Les quatre harmonicistes sont parfaitement soutenus par un groupe de premier choix : Michael Coleman, Lucky Peterson, Johnny B. Gayden, Ray "Killer" Allison.

Four big blues harmonica names gathered at Chicago's Streeterville Studios by Bruce Iglauer for a fantastic meeting. Billy plays with the others on the opening title "Down home blues", sings the superb "Who" (a cover of Little Walter) and his own composition "New kid on the block". The four harmonica players are perfectly supported by a first rate group : Michael Coleman, Lucky Peterson, Johnny B. Gayden, Ray "Killer" Allison.

CHICAGO BLUES SESSION vol.22

Wolf

October 1990 / October 1992

Cinq morceaux gravés lors de deux séances captées à Chicago. Des reprises conventionnelles (Little Walter notamment) avec un harmonica créatif mais un chant médiocre. On peut retenir néanmoins une furieuse version de "Everything gonna be all right".

Five pieces cut during two sessions recorded in Chicago. Conventional covers (Little Walter in particular) with a creative harmonica but a mediocre singing. We can nevertheless retain a furious version of "Everything gonna be all right".

MISSISSIPPI FLASHBACK

GBW

December 1991 - January 1992

Ce CD, produit par Chicago Beau pour une marque japonaise (GBW), propose un Chicago blues puissant dominé par l'harmonica de Billy Branch. De fougueux instrumentaux ("Mississippi flashback", "Roaches"), un superbe titre acoustique ("How can you stand it baby") ainsi que quelques belles reprises ("I'm ready", "Are you serious"). Les sidemen sont également à leur meilleur : Russell Wheeler, Carl Weathersby, Tyson Bell et le fidèle Mose Rutues.

This CD, produced by Chicago Beau for a Japanese imprint (GBW), features a powerful Chicago blues dominated by Billy Branch's harmonica. Fiery instrumentals ("Mississippi flashback", "Roaches"), a superb acoustic title ("How can you stand it baby") and some nice covers ("I'm ready", "Are you serious"). The sidemen are also at their best : Russell Wheeler, Carl Weathersby, Tyson Bell and the faithful Mose Rutues.

THE BLUES KEEP ME FOLLOWING AROUND

Verve - Gitanes Jazz

June - July 1994

Une set-list dense et superbe où brille constamment l'harmonica de Billy Branch bien supporté par un groupe compétent (Carl Weathersby à la guitare et au chant sur deux titres, David Torkanowsky). La production est signée par John Snyder et Jay Newland pour Verve-Gitanes. Les meilleurs moments me semblent être "Grown men cry", "If heartaches were nickels", "You", "The blues follow me around" et "Should have known better".

A dense and beautiful set-list where the harmonica of Billy Branch constantly shines well supported by a competent group (Carl Weathersby on guitar and singing on two tracks, David Torkanowsky). The production is signed by John Snyder and Jay Newland for Verve-Gitanes. The best moments seem to me to be "Grown men cry", "If heartaches were nickels", "You", "The blues follow me around" and "Should have known better".

SATISFY ME

House of Blues

Verve - Gitanes Jazz

October - November 1995

Même duo de producteurs, la participation de Carl Weathersby, avec cette fois une section rythmique louisianaise (George Porter et Herman Ernest). Un programme correct mais conventionnel sans beaucoup de flamme ni de rythme. Un disque intéressant mais substantiellement inférieur au précédent.

Same producers, the participation of Carl Weathersby, this time with a Louisiana rhythm section (George Porter and Herman Ernest). A decent but conventional program without much flame or rhythm. An interesting record but substantially inferior to the previous one.

EASY MEETING

Isabel

DOUBLE TAKE

Alligator

May 1998

Séance acoustique enregistrée en France en 1998, produite par Didier Tricard et publiée par son label Isabel, cinq ans plus tard. L'album fut ensuite repris par le label américain Alligator. Associant Billy Branch et Kenny Neal, les deux hommes se partagent le chant (Kenny étant un bien meilleur chanteur que son acolyte) et se montrent plutôt inspirés sur leur instrument respectif malgré un certain manque d'originalité. "The son I never knew" reste de loin le meilleur titre du programme.

Acoustic session recorded in France in 1998, produced by Didier Tricard and issued by his label Isabel, five years later. The album was later taken over by the American label Alligator. Associating Billy Branch and Kenny Neal, the two men share singing duties (Kenny being a much better singer than his sidekick) and are rather inspired on their respective instrument despite a certain lack of originality. "The son I never knew" is by far the best title of the program.

SUPERHARPS

Telarc

April 1999

Réunion d'harmonicistes produit par Randy Labbe sous la bannière Telarc. Billy joue sur cinq morceaux dont les excellents "I put my baby out" et "Mean little mama". En revanche, sa version mollassonne de "Route 66" ou l'instrumental quelconque "TD's boogie woogie" ne convainquent pas.

Harmonicists meeting produced by Randy Labbe under the Telarc banner. Billy plays on five tracks including the excellent "I put my baby out" and "Mean little mama". On the other hand, his lazy version of "Route 66" or the ordinary instrumental "TD's boogie woogie" do not convince.

BILLY BRANCH & THE SONS OF THE BLUES FT. CARLOS JOHNSON

Blue Sun

December 1999 - June 2000

MARK HUMMEL'S BLUES HARP MELTDOWN vol.1

Mountain Top

January 2000

Depuis le début des années 90, Mark Hummel - lui-même harmoniciste - organise des réunions d'harmonicistes lors de concerts et de mini-tournées. Celle-ci datant de 2000 est captée au Moe's Alley de Santa Cruz et publiée sur le label Mountain Top. Billy - qui n'est pas accompagné par ses musiciens habituels - livre une prestation inégale.

Since the early 90's, Mark Hummel - harmonicist himself - has been organizing harmonicist meetings for concerts and mini-tours. This one dating from 2000 is captured at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz and issued on Mountain Top label. Billy - who is not accompanied by his usual musicians - delivers an uneven performance.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO

Charly

?

Concert donné au Buddy Guy's Legends à Chicago. Une performance classique sans grande surprise.

Concert given at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago. A classic performance without much surprise.

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LUCERNE BLUES FESTIVAL 2002

Jung

November 2002

DON'T MESS WITH THE BLUESMEN

P-Vine

June 2003 - January 2004

L'album réunit l'harmoniciste Billy Branch et le guitariste Carlos Johnson autrefois associés au sein des Sons of the Blues. Gravé à Chicago, l'album est produit par Sumito "Ariyo" Ariyoshi. Des reprises plutôt bien ficelées ("Don't throw your love on me so strong", "Going to New York", "Shade tree mechanic", "Real mother for ya"), des instrumentaux inspirés ("Blues after the rain", "Escape") mais aussi certains moments un peu trop conventionnels (la ballade "Hello there"). Un excellent disque néanmoins.

The album brings together the harmonicist Billy Branch and the guitarist Carlos Johnson formerly associated with the Sons of the Blues. Recorded in Chicago, the album is produced by Sumito "Ariyo" Ariyoshi. Really well-arranged covers ("Don't throw your love on me so strong", "Going to New York", "Shade tree mechanic", "Real mother for ya"), inspired instrumentals ("Blues after the rain", "Escape") but also some moments a little too conventional (the ballad "Hello there"). An excellent record nevertheless.

JUDGEMENT DAY : SONGS OF ROBERT JOHNSON

Warlock

Acrobat

2004

CHICAGO BLUES : A LIVING HISTORY

Raisin' Music

2009

Remarquable retrospective du Chicago Blues produite par Larry Skoller. Billy prend trois titres superbes en leader : "Hate to see you go", "Hoodoo man blues", "One more blues". Derrière lui, des musiciens de premier choix lui procurent un parfait support (Billy Flynn, Johnny Iguana, Felton Crews, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith).

Remarkable Chicago Blues retrospective produced by Larry Skoller. Billy takes three great titles as a leader : "Hate to see you go", "Hoodoo man blues", "One more blues". Behind him, top musicians give him perfect support (Billy Flynn, Johnny Iguana, Felton Crews, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith).

CHICAGO BLUES : A LIVING HISTORY - LIVE AT AULNAY ALL BLUES

Raisin' Music

November 2010

CHICAGO BLUES : A LIVING HISTORY - THE (R)EVOLUTION CONTINUES

Raisin' Music

2011

Suite du premier opus "Chicago Blues : a living history" avec des musiciens supplémentaires et toujours la production experte de Larry Skoller. Aux côtés de James Cotton, Billy propose une relecture sympathique du classique "Rocket 88". Il faut aussi écouter sa brillante reprise de "Mellow down easy / Bo Diddley".

Continuation of the first opus "Chicago Blues: a living history" with additional musicians and always the expert production of Larry Skoller. Along with James Cotton, Billy offers a nice reading of the classic "Rocket 88". We must also listen to his brilliant cover of "Mellow down easy / Bo Diddley".

BLUES SHOCK

Blind Pig

2014

A la sortie de ce disque, cela faisait dix ans que Billy Branch n'a pas enregistrer un disque complet en leader. Billy produit l'album lui-même (avec l'aide de Jack LeTourneau) et s'entoure d'un bon groupe (Nick Charles, Mose Rutues parmi d'autres) et de quelques invités (Ronnie Baker Brooks, Johnny Iguana, Bill Mac Farland). Un programme inégal avec d'indéniables bons moments : "Sons of blues", "Blues shock", "Dog house", "Function at the junction", "Baby let me butter your corn". Il faut aussi signaler que Billy Branch a crée et animé le programme éducatif "The blues in the schools".

At the release of this record, it had been ten years since Billy Branch did not record a complete record as a leader. Billy produced the album himself (with the help of Jack LeTourneau) and surround himself with a good backing band (Nick Charles, Mose Rutues among others) and a few guests (Ronnie Baker Brooks, Johnny Iguana, Bill Mac Farland). An uneven program with undeniable good times : "Sons of blues", "Blues shock", "Dog house", "Function at the junction", "Baby let me butter your corn". It should also be noted that Billy Branch created and animated the educational program "The blues in the schools".

WAY DOWN INSIDE : SONGS OF WILLIE DIXON

Big

Summer 2016

Hommage à Willie Dixon coordonné par Chris Goldsmith et Todd Park Mohr. Branch fait partie des invités et joue sur trois excellents morceaux : "It don't make sense you can't make peace", "Bring it on home" et surtout "Good advice".

Tribute to Willie Dixon coordinated by Chris Goldsmith and Todd Park Mohr. Branch is part of the guests and plays on three excellent songs : "It don't make sense you can't make peace", "Bring it on home" and especially "Good advice".