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Jimmy Dawkins was one of the originators of the tough West Side sound in Chicago blues. Since his initial appearance on Delmark in the late '60s, his career has had its ups and downs, often going years without recording. After a string of lackluster releases in the '80s, and some time away from performing, Dawkins started to find his feet again in the early '90s. Tell Me Baby is Dawkins' second album for Fedora and features the same core players as his earlier effort for the label from 2001: Frank Goldwasser on guitar, John Suhr on organ, and Chris Millar on drums and producing. Additionally on this 2003 session, Dawkins is rejoined by guitarist Rich Kirch, whom he played with back in the '70s. The first track stumbles a bit, with Dawkins' guitar too low in the mix and perhaps just a bit too much production gloss. But as things progress, the band seems to pick up steam, and his guitar takes its proper place upfront. Dawkins' impassioned singing still hits home, his tough guitar soloing has lost none of its edge (there is still no one who plays quite like him), and the tunes give him plenty of room to stretch out. Tell Me Baby will never take the place of his early Delmark material, but it's good to hear an unsung bluesman like Dawkins still kicking it out after 35 years.

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