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Back In The Game (2011)


 "[This reunion is] a joyful and intimate affair...[T]he almost supernatural power that Satan and Adam conjure on ["Lotto 54" and "Listen to the Music"] makes clear that when they were really flying, they could summon as much force as most full-scale ensembles...[T]his is a deeply satisfying set.  Magee's voice may be a bit thinner these days, but he still exudes the raw-edged joyfulness that's always been his trademark, and if anything the ravages of age have added even more textures to his sound....[Magee and Gussow] consistently achieve a telepathy-like melodic and rhythmic closeness....The music they make here is blues, pure and simple, and at its best, it's as powerful and emotionally satisfying as any they've made in the past."

                                        David Whiteis, Living Blues magazine [August 2011]




Back In The Game by Satan and Adam

10 songs, 40 minutes

produced by Rachel Faro and Adam Gussow with Bryan W. Ward


     The fact that this album exists at all is a minor miracle. A breakdown and a heart attack dissolved the legendary Harlem blues duo, Satan and Adam, at the turn of the millennium.  In March 2010, on the day the band entered the studio for the first time in more than 15 years, drummer Dave Laycock ended up in critical care at a local hospital.  But Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee and Adam Gussow are survivors, and this album is testament to that fact:  the first all-new release by Satan and Adam since 1996.

     Propelled by Magee’s raspy vocals and Gussow’s soaring, amped-up harmonica, Back in the Game features the same gritty mix of blues, jazz, soul, and funk that fans of Satan and Adam have loved since 1991, when their debut release, Harlem Blues, was nominated for a W. C. Handy award.  You'll find some standards here ("Big Boss Man," "Broke and Hungry," "Fever"), some Sterling Magee originals ("Ain't Nobody," "Hey, Hey, Hey," "Lotto 54"), and a couple of originals from Gussow, including the gospel-grooved "Tell The World I Do” and “Thunky Fing Rides Again,” featuring the “groovemaster,” bassist Jerry Jemmott.

     Many of the tracks have been spiced up with bass, guitar, and percussion contributed by a pack of Mississippi-based musicians, including Gussow’s wife, Sherrie, who makes her recording debut on tambourine.   The album ends with an over-the-top romp called "Listen to the Music" from the original Harlem Blues sessions in 1990:  just Magee and Gussow kicking and stomping, taking no prisoners.  If you want to know why they called Magee "Mr. Satan" back on the streets of Harlem, this gem from the archives will make that clear.

     Back In The Game is old-school blues rippling with funky uptown energies--one more ride on the Harlem/Mississippi express!  Like John Lee Hooker in The Healer and B. B. King in Riding With The King, Sterling Magee has become a deep blues source, an elder statesman with some unforgettable stories to tell.

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To hear samples from Back In The Game and/or to purchase the album in mp3 form as a zip file download, with COMPLETE LINER NOTES INCLUDED, please hit the following link:


If you've got a reliable high-speed connection and want the original uncompressed WAV masters (CD quality), WITH COMPLETE LINER NOTES INCLUDED, you can purchase a zip file containing those here:



Back In The Game is also now available at iTunes, Amazon mp3s, and CDBaby. 
(If you'd like the liner notes, though, you'll need to purchase it through Tradebit, above.) 

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     As Satan and Adam, Magee and Gussow were an integral part of the New York blues renaissance of the 1990s, along with Shemekia Copeland, The Holmes Brothers, Michael Hill and the Blues Mob, and Popa Chubby.  They burst on the scene in 1991 with Harlem Blues, featuring Magee on guitar, percussion, and vocals and Gussow on amplified harmonica.  “[This is blues] so unbelievably raw and real,” wrote CMJ, “it’s hard even to describe it.  Satan sounds like the heaviest and scariest parts of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters reincarnated as a whole band and then somehow crammed back into the body of one man, and Adam fills in some piercing harmonica wails that seem to come from the same dark, primeval place as Shakey Horton’s or Little Walter’s.”  Harlem Blues was nominated for a Handy Award as “Traditional Blues Album” in 1991.

     Magee and Gussow first met on 125th Street in Harlem in 1986, where Magee, an R&B singer and guitarist from Mount Olive, Mississippi, had reinvented himself as a one-man band.  Known in the early 1960s as a “Five Fingers Magee,” a dazzling guitar prodigy, Magee later worked as a sideman with King Curtis, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.  Gussow, a writer and harmonicist with the touring company of Big River, worked Harlem’s streets with Magee for three years before the duo was discovered.

     Magee and Gussow followed up Harlem Blues with Mother Mojo (1993) and Living on the River (1996).  They toured internationally and played blues, jazz, and folk festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Winnipeg, Dublin, and many other venues.  They were celebrated, among other things, for their 38-second cameo in U2’s 1988 documentary, Rattle & Hum, in which they performed Magee’s original composition, “Freedom For My People.”

       In 1998, after Magee experienced health challenges, Satan and Adam disbanded.  Gussow’s tale of the duo’s exploits, Mister Satan’s Apprentice:  A Blues Memoir was published later that year and received the Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Literature from the Blues Foundation in Memphis.  (It was republished by the University of Minnesota Press in 2009.)  Gussow is currently an Associate Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi.  His 2010 solo debut, Kick and Stomp, has received heavy airplay on Bluesville (XM/Sirius satellite radio).  Magee lives in Gulfport, Florida and has become a celebrated icon of the Tampa-area blues scene.



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Here's a video of "Big Boss Man" shot on May 21, 2011, the day after Sterling's 75th birthday celebration at Hill Country Harmonica, an annual event at Foxfire Ranch in Waterford, Mississippi:


And here's the official music video for "Thunky Fing Rides Again," a track on the album.  Sterling isn't in the video--he was chillin' back at his rest home in Florida--but he's strumming guitar on the recording and his joyous spirit is being honored here:

Modern Blues Harmonica supports

§The Jazz Foundation of America


§The Innocence Project




ADAM GUSSOW is an official endorser for HOHNER HARMONICAS