By Brian Augustine
The cross-pollination that this artist has experienced between jazz, blues and rock comes together for me on the tune "Spellbound". This self-penned number finds Craig lending these influences seamlessly. I hear the subtle smooth jazz approach of Duke Ellington and Count Basie merge with the rougher hewn Chicago sound of Muddy Waters. Buddy Guy and Otis Rush then the drive of Chuck Berry and the sweet soul of Sam Cooke without any side dominating the other. All the above-named artists are musicians with whom he has played over his 40 years in the business.
This guy is the type of blues artist we are hearing more and more of. He is the epitome of the long-time sideman coming forward with his own vision. This vision was forged through all his musical relationships that spanned a wide range of styles of expressions. The result is you the listener benefit from his creative way of putting all this experience together. Eight of the twelve songs on this CD were written or co-written by Craig, two others were written by either his friends or band members.
From the opening notes he warns you that his will be a different experience. Cut one "Chest Pain Blues" is opened by the horn section tuning up. In this off kilter manner, he introduces a little atonality before breaking into a standard blues shuffle. His vocals here subtly reminds me of B.B. King. Then another number, 3 Days and 3 Nights" starts as a regular sounding jump style when suddenly we hear a Wes Montgomery-like delicate guitar filigrees. "One More Time" employes a calypso rhythm and a Sam Cooke vocal phrasing. Still another number, "Cottonwood Tree" has a clipped rhythm that owes its drive as much to the B-3 work of Jimmy Pugh as Craigs sizzling guitar.
"Is It True" begins with a Ray Charles like big band arrangement with an R&B feel to the vocal before it breaks into a jazz guitar solo. A spoken introduction lets you know "Nightclub" is a song about good and evil coexistence. It features a New Orleans honky-tonk piano and guitar with a Rock/B.B. King axis.
He utilizes this spoken intro again on the traditional Chicago blues number "Ridin In My Jaguar" this is a tribute to his now deceased friend Bill Warren with whom he played and co-wrote this song. Noteworthy here is the heavy-handed rock style guitar solo, "Watch Yourself" is a straightforward blues but it has a quirky feel that is really hard to put your finger on. This is one of the pleasant enigmas of this recording everything has a sort of different feel to it that is hard to articulate but definitely there.
The ending cut "Midnight Shuffle" is an instrucmental played behind Craig telling an autobiographical story.
Ive got to admit this is a damn good album that shows this guy was destined to go solo. He has obviously absorbed all he needs in order to succeed. Craig now lives in the Bay Area, as do most of the players that help with this effort. This includes Rusty Zinn who not only contributes some tasty guitar, but is also listed as its producer.
September 13, 2001
Bay Area guitarist and singer Craig Horton had his 15 minutes of fame during his Chicago days several decades ago, playing the signature guitar part on Jump Jacksons 1962 hit "Midnight Shuffle" as well as playing with Little Walter, The Dells and other Chicago bands. Horton was out of the music business for a lot of years before going back in the studio for In My Spirit (Bad Daddy Records), produced by guitarist Rusty Zinn. One listen to the CD will make you wish that Horton hadnt stayed away from the music biz for so many years. Hes a fine T-Bone Walker-style guitarist with a rich, charcoal voice. In My Spirit opens with a pleasant B.B.-style blues, "Chest Pain Blues" (which of course, starts out with the common blues refrain of ("
woke up this morning
"). He then jumps into a mid-tempo Texas Shuffle, "3 Days and 3 Nights," which is one of the best cuts on the album. Hortons vocals stand out on this number, not quite a shout but a little beyond his normal volume, and he also tears off some good Texas blues guitar riffs. Horton reprises one of his other 1962 hits, "Ridin; In My Jaguar," in which he feeds a little more echo through his guitar on this typical hard drivin car song. The album ends with his new version of "Midnight Shuffle," on which Horton gives a little biographical information spoken over portions of the tune. Just play, Craig
BLUES ACCESS MAGAZINE
By Red Rooster
This is the debut disc from the songwriter, singer and guitarist currently ensconced in Oakland, California. Now in his early 60s. Horton grew up in Arkansas, but by the late 50s he had made his way to Chicago where he played in Little Walters band and hit the road with the Dells. At various times he also teamed with many of the other Chicago blues giants and toured Europe with Sam Myers and the Mississippi Delta Blues Band in the 80s.
The music here cant be pigeonholed except that its all straight-ahead blues. Vocally, Horton is most reminiscent of Freddy King (with a bit of Buddy Guys upper register); you can hear some T-bone in his guitar, but after over 40 years of playing blues, jazz, R&B and rock n roll Craig is certainly his own man, opting for refined versus overpowering chops. But chops hes got, and if theyre not always in your face, so much the better as far as Im concerned.
Rusty Zinn produced all but two of the tracks represented on In My Spirit as well as playing rhythm guitar, which is a virtual guarantee of a tasty product. Zinn has always showed a delicious retro feel for the blues sounds of the 50s and 60s. But in the end this is Craig Hortons show, and finally given the chance to shine he brings his "A" game with him.
WALLA WALLA BLUES SOCIETY
By Tony Englehart
From track one on Craig Hortons first solo release, In My Spirit, youll ask yourself, "Where has this guy been hiding?" For the past four decades Craig Horton has been a key element and silent force in blues music. This Chicago bluesman has a reputation as an accomplished songwriter, guitar player and vocalist. Make no mistake, Craig Horton is no newcomer but a veteran player who played the guitar in Little Walters Band and toured with The Dells. Horton has shared the stage with the likes of Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Buddy Buy and Freddie King. The Bay Area Blues Society has acknowledged Horton for his contribution to the West Boast blues, honored him for outstanding achievement. In My Spirit is straightforward Chicago blues, chalk full of jumpin guitar-driven shuffles, classic slow blues, great horn arrangements and gutsy virtuous vocals. Hortons Fender playing is polished, tight and steady. Not over produced by Rusty Zinn (who also accompanies Horton on rhythm guitar on many of the tracks), the recording comes off very relaxed and unrestrained. As the disc begins spinning one hears horns preparing for a pleasurable assault on the listener. After the drummer counts fives and disc opens with a cookin shuffle "Chest Pain Blues". Interesting elements of this recording are the interviews planted throughout the record.
He speaks of danger in nightclubs, from experience no doubt, just in front of the kickin track simply entitled "Nightclub". "I have lived the blues all my life" Horton states at the beginning of the 4 minutes and final interview track. Interjected between a guitar-guided shuffle, he talks about why he picked up the guitar and why he sings the blues. At 61 years old, Craig Horton has the vitality of a Keb Mo or an Eric Bibb with the seasoning of a B.B. King or a Buddy Guy. In My Spirit is long overdue but was worth the wait. With Hortons straight approach to the music this is how the Chicago blues is supposed to sound. This CD can be purchased at www.baddaddy.com for $13.00 with shipping charge of $3.00.
October 12, 2001
Chicago Blues is live and well and living in San Francisco in the persona of Craig Horton. A veteran of over 40 years in the business, Horton is a skilled singer, songwriter and guitarist. Believe it or not, after all those years of playing with blues greats Little Walter Jacobs, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy, In My Spirit is Hortons first solo effort.
Craig Horton is an excellent songwriter and vocalist, with my favorite selections from the CD "3Days and 3 Nights"," One More Time", and a beautiful ballad, "Spellbound". Horton originates from the famous stable of promoter Christine Vitale, which also includes Anthony Paule, Anthony Gomes and Home Cookin.
Hortons supporting cast gets an A+; starting with fellow San Francisco blues great Rusty Zinn, who also produced the CD. In addition to Zinn, the band includes Bob Welsh and Franck Goldwasser on guitars, Randey Bermudes and Henry Oden on Bass, Bob Welsh (again) and Chris Burns on keyboard, Jim Pugh on organ, Scott Silveira and John Hanes on drums and a horn section made up of Greg Riley, Chris Whynaught, Will Miller and Duane Benjamin. They provide an excellent setting, often reminding me of the famous B.B. King/Sonny Freeman bands of the 60s and 70s.
In My Spirit is soulful, funky, moving and down-to-earth Chicago blues. The songs on the CD are well done and Craig Horton originals for the most part. The musicians are terrific and Hortons vocals and songwriting are superb. You can purchase the CD at Bad Daddy Records for $15 plus shipping.
On The Record
By Justin Edward Mitchell
Something in the pit of the stomach of the blues drags its avatars from the raw urgent earth of the North Mississippi/West Tennessee/East Arkansas triangle, polishes them to a fine sentient sheen in Chicago, and plants them in the ethereal San Francisco Bay area.
Something in the Northern California air lets them blossom, and radiate, and shower us with their truest fruit. Body, mind, and soul come together for blues players who run this gauntlet all the way through. It takes time. And it brings the blues full-circle to its birthplace in the South. So when a great label like Bad Daddy Records taps me on the shoulder with a new release, I expect to be introduced to a sonic jewel Ive known without Knowing it.
Such is the case with Craig Hortons debut solo release, In My Spirit.
His bio says that Craig grew up in the hill country of Conway, Arkansas. His grandmother played guitar in church, and his grandfather gave Craig his own ax when he was fourteen. I suspect that the pair were prone to hammering out both sacred and secular tones, keeping his eye on the sparrow, conjuring the spirits that still revolve around the smooth and plaintive edges of his voice and guitar.
From those modest beginnings, Craig shot out for Chicago and the moon. Since then, hes carved out a constellation for himselfweaving phantasms in the ectoplasm across four decades with a whole legion of legends, from Count Basie and Duke Ellington to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and Sam Cooke to Otis Rush and Buddy Guy. Hes been a cornerstone of the West Coast Blues scene for more than twenty years. shaping himself into a living embodiment of the complete Blues musician.
Appropriate then, that the title of his debut release should invoke the gospel soil from which his gift first sprang.
The release reaches out into all the quadrants Horton has touched along his spiritual and musical and physical pilgrimage. Each tune hints at the trail, with licks and textures derived from Jazz, R&B, and rock n roll. We all know that these are branches of the One Tree, but Horton makes it that much clearer shifting among these distinction with grace and ease to achieve his purpose.
From the bluesy ache of "Chest Pain Blues" to the casual jazzy sashay of "3 Days and 3 Nights" to the sock-hop tinged "One More Time," Horton makes it clear from the outset that his is broad as well as deep. The rest of the release proves just as diverse and cohesive.
Theres even some personal history and philosophy sprinkled throughout, in case the music didnt make it clear. With In My Spirit, Craig Horton shines as a vital and important source of Blues and light an artist of wit and wisdom. Check it out.
LIVING BLUES MAGAZINE
By Jim DeKoster
Bay area guitarist Craig Horton isnt exactly a household name even among die-hard blues fans. For too long, his discography has consisted of a 1961 Chicago session with Bill Warren and Jump Jackson for Fay/LaSalle and a couple of LP appearances from the early 80s on TJ with Sam Myers in the Mississippi Delta Blues Bank and as featured vocalist with the San Francisco Blues Band.
Hortons singing and playing have both matured considerably since his last recording, teaming with Rusty Zinns production and first-rate band work to make his belated debut disc an unqualified success. Although said to reflect the "heavy swingin, hard shufflin classis blues sounds of Chicago and the South." Hortons music also shows a marked West Coast influence on the T-Bone shuffles of "Watch Yourself" and "3 Days and 3 Nights". The latter song and "Try Me Baby" are both clearly superior remakes of songs from the TJ record, and both sides of the Fay 45 are reprised on "Ridin In My Jaguar" and "Midnight Shuffle", which, like "Nightclub", include dubbed snippets of a biographical interview. Once it gets going. "Nightclub" moves along to a rolling Jay McShann boogie beat. "One more Time" and "Cottonwood Tree" sport Latin rhythms, and "Thats Her" is a jazzy swinger cushioned by Jim Pughs organ. Theres something of a B.B. King blues ballad flavor to "Is It True" and "Spellbound", while the opening of "Chest Pain Blues" settles into a surging dance groove after a brief intro from the horn section that sounds as if the Art Ensemble of Chicago had wandered into the studio. Throughout, Hortons vocals are confident and assertive and his guitar work is inventive - as he says, he always plays without a net.
Although its a bit unsettling that one of the years best debut discs comes from a 61-year old man who first recorded forty years ago, this one should certainly go a long way toward raising Craig Hortons profile, fans of T-Bone Walker, Roy Gaines, and tasteful electric guitar blues in general, should be sure to give it a listen.
EAST BAY EXPRESS
August 15, 2001
By Lee Hildebrand
Until quite recently, Craig Horton was a phantom of the blues. His main claim to fame was the scorching guitar solo on a 1962 recording by Chicago drummer Jump Jackson titled "Midnight Shuffle." Yet his name didnt appear on the label of the 45, which is so obscure that its known only to a handful of dedicated record collectors. And there were those who remembered Hortons brilliance the nights he sat in with Muddy Waters back at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, and would ask each other, "What ever happened to that guy?"
Born 61 years ago in Conway, Arkansas, and based in Oakland since 1966, the singing guitarist had pretty much drifted away from the music scene working a variety of day jobs, including three years on the GM assembly line in Fremont by the time drummer Scott Silveira coaxed him back into performing a few years ago. One night, Silveira hired young blues guitar hotshot Rusty Zinn, who was between tours with his own band, to play behind Horton on a gig at Elis Mile High Club. "Do you know anything about Midnight shuffle?" Zinn asked Horton before the evening was over, having recognized the older musicians signature style.
Zinns admiration for Horton led to him producing most of the tracks on Hortons debut CD "In My Spirit" for Bad Daddy Records in Southern California. ("Franck "Paris Slim" Goldwasser produced two selections). Horton and his band celebrate their discs release Saturday at 10pm. At Elis, 3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland. For more information, phone Elis at 510-655-6661.
Its a new beginning for me, the guitarist says of the album. "Regardless of the obstacles that I put in my own way I hung in."
The resonance in Hortons singing voice suggests that of T-Bone Walker. Theres also a hint of Walker in Hortons guitar playing, along with traces of B.B. King, Freddie King, and Wayne Bennett. "Truthfully speaking," Horton insists, "I have never, ever just sat down and listened to one particular person. I listened to some of all of it."
Horton played gospel music before turning to the blues at age twelve, and credits three women his mother, his grandmother, and famous gospel singer-guitarists Sister Rosetta Tharpe, as early inspirations. "My mother used to play one string a hay-baling wire with a fruit jar on top and sing at the same time," he says. "She would do that at home, on the side of the house. That was her hobby. She loved the Ink Spots and ballads like that. She loved the blues, too. She just loved music, period. My grandmother played in church. She taught me how to complement you know, chords and different things so I could play in church."
Besides an incisive tone, what perhaps most distinguishes Hortons blues guitar playing is its unpredictability. He is a true improviser who plays whatever pops into his head at the moment, whether it works or not though it usually does. "I always play without a net," he explains, "It is hard for me to follow set patterns. Im into trying to execute what I feel. Im into feelings."
DOC BLUEZ BLUES LOUNGE
It would probably be easier to list the blues greats that Craig Horton has not played with than those he has played alongside. Horton has seemingly played with them all, from Little Walter to Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Freddie King
well, you get the idea. Horton, a native of Arkansas who now calls Oakland, CA home, had a brief moment in the sun when he recorded the memorable guitar solo on Jump Jacksons 1962 hit, "Midnight Shuffle". Amazingly (or sadly), In My Spirit is Hortons first solo album.
In My Spirit teams Horton with Rusty Zinn who served a producer as well as contributing rhythm guitar work. This album shows that Horton, at age 61 and with over 40 years of experience, has not slowed up at all. Horton moves easily between styles from the "in you face" opener, "Chest Pain Blues" to the swing inspired "One More Time", Horton delivers. We also get some nice spoken material on this release with Horton talking about the risks of playing in rough and tumble settings when introducing the Louis Jordan-like "Nightclub". Also, a huge tip of the hat goes out to the entire rhythm section on this album as a steady blues beat is maintained throughout which allows Horton to shine through. A new solo version of "Midnight Shuffle" is also included in this set. Hortons vocals are dead on and his guitar work is truly righteous in both its range and feel. In My Spirit is an album that was 40 years in the making, and, like a fine wine, was aged just right. Rating: 9
COSMIK BLUES WITH ERIC STEINER
September 20, 2001
A Classic in the Making from Craig Horton
Craig Hortons first solo record, In My Spirit, harkens back to the late 50s Chicago blues scene when he was with Little Walter and toured with the Dells, one of the best soul ballad bands from the golden era of Chess Records. Even though hes moved to the San Francisco Bay area, Craigs still plays the same great Chicago sound.
Horton was the opening act for Count Basie and Duke Ellington in landmark Chicago clubs like the Golden Dolphin, and went on to perform with the likes of Chuck Berry, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy, among many others. In the 80s, Craig toured Europe as lead guitarist for Sam Myers and the Mississippi Delta Blues Band and performed on the bands 1982 album, San Francisco Blues.
My favorites on In My Spirit include two cuts he originally recorded in 1962 "Ridin In My Jaguar" and "Midnight Shuffle." Hortons bandmates on In My Spirit include special guests Franck Goldwasser, otherwise known as Paris Slim in the Bay Area, keyboard player Jim Pugh, and bassist Henry Oden. For more information on Craig, check out www.baddaddy.com.
The Review of Jazz &Blues: Creative Improvised Music
By Ron Weinstock
Craig Horton is a name that will be unfamiliar to most but hopefully Bad Daddy Records should change this. Originally part of the Chicago Blues and R&B scene (he was in Little Walters Band for a spell and toured with the Dells), Horton relocated to the West Coast, becoming a significant presence on the San Francisco Bay Area Blues scene. In My Spirit is his first album, although he recorded in the past, including with the Mississippi Delta Blues Band when it was fronted by Sammy Myers. With a little help from friends including Rusty Zinn, Horton is heard on a set or original songs that evoke B.B. King. T-Bone Walker and other urban blues masters. The opening "Chest Pain Blues" suggests the Butterfield Blues Bands recording of "Walking Blues" crossed with B.B. Kings "Why I Sing the Blues" with its; funky groove "3 Days and 3 Nights" opens with a piano part that sound derived from the opening of "T-Bone Shuffle", and Hortons playing here is in the T-Bone Walker tradition. "Is It True," in contrast, employs engaging singer whose singing suggests B.B. King and Bobby Bland, he is ably supported. The closing instrumental tract, "Midnight Shuffle," is used as a soundtrack for some spoken recollections by Horton. A couple other tracks are effectively introduced by short spoken recollections. With a varied musical program and Hortons spirited performances, one can only wonder why it took so long to get him into the studio.
BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE
By Tom Hyslop
This months top pick comes from a veteran making his solo debut. Craig Horton, who toured with the Dells and backed Little Walter in the late 1950s, toured with both Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters, and recorded with Sam Myers, has cut a quintessential Chicago-meets-Texas, West Coast blues record. Hortons a natural a tremendous singer, biting guitar player, and talented writer. "Spellbound" is a gorgeous ballad, "Watch Yourself" the perfect shuffle, "Try Me Baby" a West Side bruiser, "Is It True" a muted slow blues. Producer Rusty Zinn rounded up superior horns, keys and rhythm players. Paraphrasing Hortons rap before "Nightclub" that evil always lurks around good, this disc has plenty of nastiness to temper its sophistication. In My Spirit (Bad Daddy Records) is inspired.