Hubert Sumlin – Healing Feeling (1990)

FrontCover1Hubert Sumlin arguably did his best work during the 23 years he was Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player, and his ragged, angular guitar style was a big part of Wolf’s rough-and-ready sound. The perfect sideman, Sumlin was by all accounts somewhat shy and reticent about taking center stage, and Healing Feeling, his second album for Black Top Records, much like his first, Hubert Sumlin’s Blues Party, is really more of an all-star blues jam than it is a fully realized project. Recorded May 5 and 6, 1989, at Southlake Recording Studios in Louisiana, with two additional tracks coming from a live show at Tipitina’s in New Orleans earlier in the day on May 5, the sessions were once again organized by guitarist Ronnie Earl, whose band the Broadcasters is used on most of the cuts. The vocal duties were shared by James “Thunderbird” Davis and Darrell Nulisch, with Sumlin singing on “Come Back Little Girl,” “Honey Dumplins,” and the set closer, “Blues for Henry,” all of which gain poignancy because of Sumlin’s somewhat fragile, whispered vocal approach.


A clear highlight is Sumlin’s solo electric guitar version of “Down the Dusty Road,” which is focused, clear, and intimate. The sound of the album is a little thicker and punchier than Blues Party, but once again Sumlin pulls off the difficult task of sounding like a sideman on his own album project, which is a shame, since when he does step forward, things really start to take on a distinct character. The two Black Top albums (this one was originally released in 1990) are really like blues jam holding patterns recorded when Sumlin was still trying to figure out how to make the transition from ace sideman to revered bandleader. Both suffer a bit from not having a truly assertive Sumlin on board. (by Steve Leggett)

Originally released in 1990 on Black Top Records (BT-1053)


James “Thunderbird” Davis (vocals on 01., 03., 06. +  08.)
Ronnie Earl (guitar)
Steve Gomes (bass)
Per Hanson (drums)
Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff (saxophone)
Darrell Nulisch (harmonica, vocals)
Richard “Dickie” Reed (keyboards)
Hubert Sumlin (guitar, vocals on 04, 10., 12. + 13.)


01. I Don’t Want To Hear About Yours (Nulisch/Gomes) 3.30
02. Healing Feeling (Sumlin/Kazanoff/Hanson/Earl/Gomes) 2.35
03. Just Like I Treat You (Burnett) 3.56
04. Come Back Little Girl (Sumlin) 4.46
05. Play It Cool (King) 5.12
06. Without A Friend Like You (Nulisch/Sumlin/Earl) 3.22
07. I Don’t Want No Woman (Veasey) 3.22
08. Blue Shadows (Fulson) 4.31
09. Down The Dusty Road (Sumlin) 2.50
10. Honey Dumlins (Sumlin) 5.30
11. Blues For Henry (Sumlin/Earl) 4.07




Hubert Sumlin – Hubert’s American Blues! (1969)

frontcover1Hubert Charles Sumlin (November 16, 1931 – December 4, 2011) was a Chicago blues guitarist and singer, best known for his “wrenched, shattering bursts of notes, sudden cliff-hanger silences and daring rhythmic suspensions” as a member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band. He was ranked number 43 in Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. (by wikipedia)

Quiet and extremely unassuming off the bandstand, Hubert Sumlin played a style of guitar incendiary enough to stand tall beside the immortal Howlin’ Wolf. The Wolf was Sumlin’s imposing mentor for more than two decades, and it proved a mutually beneficial relationship; Sumlin’s twisting, darting, unpredictable lead guitar constantly energized the Wolf’s 1960s Chess sides, even when the songs themselves (check out “Do the Do” or “Mama’s Baby” for conclusive proof) were less than stellar.
Sumlin started out twanging the proverbial broom wire nailed to the wall before he got his mitts on a real guitar. He grew up near West Memphis, AR, briefly hooking up with another young lion with a rosy future, harpist James Cotton, before receiving a summons from the mighty Wolf to join him in Chicago in 1954.

hubertsumlin01aSumlin learned his craft nightly on the bandstand behind Wolf, his confidence growing as he graduated from rhythm guitar duties to lead. By the dawn of the ’60s, Sumlin’s slashing axe was a prominent component on the great majority of Wolf’s waxings, including “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Shake for Me,” “Hidden Charms” (boasting perhaps Sumlin’s greatest recorded solo), “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy,” and “Killing Floor.”
Although they had a somewhat tempestuous relationship, Sumlin remained loyal to Wolf until the big man’s 1976 death. But there were a handful of solo sessions for Sumlin before that, beginning with a most unusual 1964 date in East Berlin that was produced by Horst Lippmann during a European tour under the auspices of the American Folk Blues Festival (the behind-the-Iron Curtain session also featured pianist Sunnyland Slim and bassist Willie Dixon).
Only in the last few years has Sumlin allowed his vocal talents to shine. He’s recorded solo sets for Black Top and Blind Pig that show him to be an understated but effective singer — and his guitar continues to communicate most forcefully.
This is the 1st solo lp from Hubert recorded in 1964 and released on the Scout label in Germany in 1969. Backing him are Willie Dixon, Clifton James and Sunnyland Slim.
This is perhaps one of the worst covers I’ve seen for a blues lp and the rest of the Scout releases aren’t much better if you ask me. (by

Scout Records has been Horst Lippmann’s and Fritz Rau’s label preceeding L + R Records, you know, the guys who brought the American Folk & Blues Festivals to Europe …

Recorded November 1, 1964 at Amiga-Studios in East-Berlin/GDR


Hubert Sumlin (left) and Howlin´ Wolf at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, England (1964)

Willie Dixon (bass, vocals)
Clifton James (drums)
Sunnyland Slim (piano, vocals)
Hubert Sumlin (guitar, vocals)


01. My Babe (Dixon) 3.06
02. Hubert’s Blues (Sumlin) 3.46
03. We Gonna Jump (Luandrew) 3.50
04. Too Late For Me To Pray (Luandrew) 3.45
05. I Love (Sumlin) 3.06
06. It’s You My Baby (Luandrew) 2.29
07. Love You,Woman (Sumlin) 3.08
08. Every Time I Get To Drinking (Luandrew) 3.02
09. When I Feel Better (Sumlin) 3.42
10. Blues Any Time (Dixon) 5.15




Alternate front+backcover from a re-release in 1980