When the young Bruce Iglauer witnessed a performance by Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers in 1971, he created a record label so he could sign them. Iglauer was a 23-year-old blues fanatic and Taylor an unrecorded 54-year-old veteran of the Chicago blues scene, though his music reached back further, to the first stirrings of postwar electrified blues. Half a century on, Iglauer’s Alligator imprint is the world’s premier blues label, while Taylor, who died in 1975, is commemorated by this appealingly unvarnished tribute.
Named after a vintage Gibson amplifier, GA-20 are a trio dedicated to the raucous joys of early Chicago blues, the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and, their favourite, Hound Dog Taylor. They are unapologetic equipment buffs, using only antique instruments, and if you care to know how a rowdy 1950s Chicago jook joint sounded, GA-20 are here to help. With an unusual bass-free lineup of two guitars and drums, they keep things simple and fierce; scything, growling riffs, driving grooves and defiant vocals. Itchy, blistering boogies such as She’s Gone and Let’s Get Funky epitomise their visceral approach, amid a smattering of slower outings. Antique maybe, but a reminder that the blues retain their odd, primal power.