Though Herb Hardesty’s hardly a household name, most of us will have heard him blow, whether on evergreen cuts such as Fats Domino’s I’m Walkin’ and Lloyd Price’s Lawdy Miss Clawdy, or behind the likes of Tom Waits, Dr John, BB King and Ruth Brown. Here, however, he’s the headline start for the first time.
The first 12 tracks, cut at Cosimo Matassa’s famed New Orleans studio, feature what’s essentially Fats’ band, just without their bandleader, and range from the upbeat, drumdriven rock of Bouncing Ball to late-night bluesy workouts such as Soft Lights. While Hardesty’s solos are notable, he slides perfectly into ensemble playing with saxophonists Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler and Clarence Ford, for what would have been central to the band’s live work.
On extra cuts from sessions at New York City and Cincinnati, singer Walter ‘Papoose’ Nelson makes an affective appearance on a couple of tracks, especially It Must Be Wonderful. Hardesty himself continued to work with Fats Domino until his retirement in 2007.