148. Fenton Robinson / Somebody Loan Me a Dime (1974)
I like this debut for Alligator a lot because Robinson's guitar and vocals combine much of what I love about Texas, Chicago, jazz, and soul all in one place. It has a pureness, a genuine flavor that is unmistakable, yet it is not adequately described by any one of those styles. It all starts with the vocals and guitar which are backed by a straight ahead band including Bill Heid and Mighty Joe Young. Robinson's voice is a deep baritone, capable of rich emotional detail while its timbre is smooth enough to imply a dimension of gentleness. This distinguishes him from the haughty, barkingly self-assured styles of singers like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf (just saying). And it's a big voice, too. They needed a microphone for the sessions but it's easy to see him singing without one. For "mikeless" cred, he even covers Big Joe Williams' "You Say You're Leaving," and to devastating effect. His unique blues guitar style is evident from the first track, "Somebody Loan Me a Dime." Robinson plays smart licks in a call-and-response style, but draws jazzy patterns from a more colorful pallet than your typical player. The tone is dirty and overdriven, without reverb, and sounds pretty much right from the wire. This is essential for fans of Chicago or Texas blues because it's good for character, and an easy like for fans of Grant Green or anyone with a penchant for soul jazz.