Picks and Pans Review: Force of Nature

updated 01/31/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/31/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor doesn't take any guff from anyone, including Father Time. Instead of being coy about her age, the reigning Queen of Chicago Blues proudly announces it here in "63 Year Old Woman," an exuberant tune that includes the promise, "If you ride my pony, I'll roll you from song to song."

Saddle up, folks, because this is a woman who's true to her word. More than four decades after the late Willie Dixon rescued her from her day job as a cleaning woman and put her onto a Chess Records roster that included Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Taylor is still belting out blues in a gravel voice with ferocious intensity. Former Chess mate Buddy Guy joins Taylor's working band here to help pay tribute to late guitarist Albert King on a searing version of "Born Under a Bad Sign." And harp man Carey Bell wails away as Taylor gives fair warning in "Mother Nature" to any woman who fools around where she shouldn't. "I'm lookin' for my man," she sings. "I'm serious as a heart attack/ Now one of you women stole him/ And I mean to get him back."

The best blues have an earthy grit, and Taylor is not one to smooth out any edges. The result here is foot-stomping music that's rough, raw and wonderfully upbeat from a veteran, no-frills vocalist who doesn't do it any other way. "Don't mess with Mother Nature," Taylor warns. "You know" you'll be sorry if you do." (Alligator)

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