BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE review of Coach House Blues

By BILL WASSERZIEHER, Issue No. 47 May 1999

The Chicago suburb of Evanston is possibly the least bluesy college town in America, thanks to the absence of anything resembling a bar scene. Evanston, is, after all the ancestral home of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, chief agents of America’s failed attempt to outlaw alcohol in the 1930’s. Yet it’s also home to Jim Greene, who plays the sort of country blues itinerant musicians used to perform as they hoboed from town to town across the Deep South.

Greene’s Just a Dream debut on the European Black Magic label was one of the first releases in the recent rush of albums by young African-American musicians rediscovering their acoustic roots. If Greene doesn’t yet have the recognition that Keb’ Mo’ or Alvin Youngblood Hart have in America, it’s not for lack of talent (and he doesn’t have Keb’ Mo’s former career in disco to live down either!). Greene’s new disc, Coach House Blues, confirms every strength of his 1995 debut. Rather than go back into a studio this time, he opted to record live (save one track) in front of an invited audience in a friend’s 1890’s-period coach house. The result is a 15-song, 53-minute collection that opens with a raw-edged version of Robert Nighthawk’s “Murdering Blues” and wraps with a medley of Blind Willie McTell’s “Stomp Down Rider” and Fred McDowell’s “You Done Told Everybody.”

In between are more tunes by McTell, Robert Johnson and Tampa Red, as well as six Greene originals. For a left-field surprise, he also includes a cover of Kate Bush’s “Home For Christmas.” Greene’s own material includes “Watching You,” arguably the album’s best song, but all the tracks capture Greene’s strong vocals, his terrific guitar work and his passion as a live performer.