It's not like Mark Oliver Everett (hereafter known as E) hasn't dealt with these themes before. His whole recording career, most of it done under the Eels moniker, has been full of brilliantly crafted pop songs that tour death, terminal illness, regrets, lost dear ones, a veiled belief in better days and times overlaid by thick angst, and now and then, actual bursts of bouncing joy and humor. So there's nothing really new thematically on the 11th Eels album, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, and even its sparse, stripped-down, and lightly orchestrated acoustic folk feel is something E has often visited. He turned 50 while writing these songs, so maybe that has something to do with the heavy and regretful tone that washes through these rather muted, weary, and almost whispered musings, few of which even rise to the tempo of a slow shuffle.
Jimmy Rogers was very much a musician's musician – the kind of guitarist that earned accolades from contemporaries and successors alike – yet one who never wins a wide, mainstream audience. Blues Blues Blues was designed as the album that would find Rogers a larger audience, and as such, it has all the bells and whistles of a big-deal blues album. It has the classics ("Trouble No More," "Bright Lights, Big City," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Don't Start Me to Talkin'"), remakes of Rogers standards ("Ludella," "That's All Right"), cult covers (Muddy Waters' "Blow Wind Blow," which kicks off the album on just the right note) and an astounding number of guest appearances, including cameos from (get ready): Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, Lowell Fulson, Johnnie Johnson, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Ted Harvey, Carey Bell, Stephen Stills, and Jeff Healey.
Starkly printed in black and white with washed-out, grainy photographs, this is one heavy slab of blues by a player who is not as well-known as he should be. Guitarist Jimmy Rogers was usually overshadowed by the leaders he worked for, Muddy Waters particularly. He was also sometimes confused with the hillbilly singer Jimmie Rodgers, and although they might have sounded good together, they don't have anything in common. This reissue collection grabs 14 tracks done at various times in the mostly early '50s which involve practically a who's who of performers associated with the most intense and driving Chicago blues. This includes the aforementioned Waters, leaving behind his role as leader for a few numbers to add some stinging guitar parts. There is also a pair of harmonica players, each of whom could melt vinyl siding with their playing. These are the Walters, big and little, as in Big Walter Horton and Little Walter. Pianist Otis Spann, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Belew are also on hand, meaning the rhythm section action is first class.