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BLUES & GOSPEL
Sonny Terry -> Ramblin' Thomas
 

SONNY TERRY
SONNY TERRY, BROWNIE MCGHEE, COUSIN LEROY
JIMMY THACKERY
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
LOVIN' SAM THEARD
LITTLE AL THOMAS & THE CRAZY HOUSE BAND
HENRY THOMAS

HOCIEL THOMAS/ LILLIE DELK CHRISTIAN
IRMA THOMAS
JAMES "SON" THOMAS
KID THOMAS
RAMBLIN' THOMAS
 

  
SONNY TERRY Alligator 4734 Whoopin' ● CD $12.98
This album is a bit different to most of Sonny's albums since instead of the usual folky feel this album has a tough down home Chicago feel with Sonny accompanied by Johnny Winter/electric & acoustic guitar & piano, Willie Dixon/bass and Styve Homnick/drums. Sonny is in good form vocally and instrumentally and the accompaniments are tasteful and appropriate - one could have only wished that Sonny would have played amplified harp for an even tougher sound! (FS)

 
SONNY TERRY Collectables 5307 Sonny Terry ● CD $11.98
CD issue of Krazy Kat 807. On Aug. 15, 1952 Sonny cut 2 takes each of 8 tunes for Gotham, who released 2 couplings, Baby Let's Have Some Fun/ Four O'Clock Blues & Harmonica Rhumba/ Lonesome Room. This LP releases 14 of 16 recordings, only 3 ever before issued (for some reason, only the alternate take of Rhumba is here.) With backing by Brownie McGhee, Doc Bagby(org) & Daddy Merritt(p,d), the released tunes are more in the folky vein Sonny & Brownie were doing at the time for Folkways, with the other 4 being a harder, more blues sound - Wine Headed Baby (great)/ Bad Luck Blues/ No Love Blues/ News For You Baby (GM)

 
SONNY TERRY Document DOCD 5230 Complete Recorded Works, 1938-45 ● CD $15.98
26 tracks, 75 min., recommended
Here we have Sonny Terry's complete post-1945 recording, including (for the first time) a few unissued Library of Congress recordings. Included are 3 early L of C versions of Fox Chase (1938,1942), the last two (unissued) also featuring Brownie McGhee. The Red Cross Store, with Brownie on vocals, also comes from this unissued session. The post-1943 NYC recordings - for Asch, Savoy, Solo Records - include Sweet Woman (Solo,'45) with his first vocal featuring his natural voice (instead of his falsetto). The CD ends with 3 tracks featuring Sonny Terry (& McGhee) accompanying one Alonzo Scales.  (EL)

 
SONNY TERRY Document DOCD 5657 Volume 2 : 1944-1949 ● CD $15.98
22 tracks, 69 mins, recommended
Fine selection of sides, mostly drawn from selections recorded for the Stinson label. Sonny is mostly featured in the company of Woody Guthrie who sings on a number of the tracks and plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. Some of the tracks also feature Woody's traveling buddy Cisco Houston and a couple feature fine vocals by Alec Seward. Sonny is also featured in a brief contribution to This Time Of The Year - an orchestra production from the play "Finian's Rainbow" which featured Sonny in an acting role. (FS)

 
SONNY TERRY Original Blues Classics 521 Sonny Is King ● CD $12.98

 
SONNY TERRY Original Blues Classics 589 Sonny Terry & His Mouth Harp ● CD $12.98
Reissue of obscure album recorded by Sonny for the Washington label in 1953 with Alec Seward on guitar rather than his usual partner Brownie McGhee.

 
SONNY TERRY Smithsonian Folkways 40033 The Folkways Years 1944-1963 ● CD $15.98
Harmonica master Sonny Terry's eight Folkways LP's were full of ferocious North Carolina harp playing. Pete Seeger and his banjo show up on two of this CD's 17 tracks, including an updating of the classic Fox Chase; Terry's longtime partner Brownie McGhee plays guitar on 10 others. There are two previously unreleased tracks here, both duets with McGhee dating from the late forties: a devastating version of James (St. Louis Jimmy) Oden's dark Going Down Slow, and an unissued acetate of the wild Sweet Woman. The sound on this 48-minute set is exemplary, and the performances are consistently first-rate. JG)

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Collectables 5198 Sonny Terry & Brownie Mcghee ● CD $11.98
 

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Fantasy 24708 Back To New Orleans ● CD $16.98
2-LP set on one CD.

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Fantasy 24723 California Blues ● CD $16.98
26 tracks, 79 min., recommended
Originally issued as 2 LP's (Fantasy 3254 & 3317), California Blues features this most famous blues duo in 1957, early in their recording association. Nine songs, including I'm A Stranger/ John Henry/ I Done Done/ Motherless Child feature the pair harmonizing; on the rest of the cuts they back each other. It's easy to see why these acoustic performances helped Terry and McGhee become the darlings of the burgeoning folk revival movement. And it's easy to hear why the two became such respected bluesmen. Plenty of great harp and guitar work, and notes from Bay Area blues scholar Lee Hildebrand. A tremendous value. (JC)

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Fantasy 24750 Backwater Blues ● CD $16.98
Recommended 75 more minutes of fine live stuff from the same sessions as the classic Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Live At Sugar Hill, recorded at that San Francisco club 12/61 (available on Original Blues Classics 536). They wonder why people ask why they only sing about whiskey, women & money - what else is there? Tunes include Wine Headed Woman/ One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer/ Lose Your Money, along with more traditional Back Water Blues/ Careless Love/ Climbin' On Top Of The Hill (a rewrite of Sittin' On Top Of The World)/ Key To the Highway, etc.with both bluesmen at their peak (GM)

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Just A Memory JAM 9131 Live At The New Penelope Cafe ● CD $12.98

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Original Blues Classics OBCCD 536 At Sugar Hill ● CD $12.98
Reissue of Fantasy 8091 recorded live at San Francisco's famed Sugar Hill jazz and blues club in December 1961. Fairly standard Sonny & Brownie McGhee fare including Hooray, Hooray, This Woman Is Killing Me/ Just About Crazy/ Baby, I Knocked On Your Door/ Baby, I Got My Eye On You/ I Feel Alright Now/ Sweet Woman Blues, etc.

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Original Blues Classics OBCCD 541 Just A Closer Walk With Thee ● CD $12.98
A worthwhile reissue of Sonny & Brownie's gospel LP on Fantasy. Many of these tracks (recorded in Oakland in 1957) have fervor and pep, but still they sound sterile and somewhat contrived in comparison to lifetime country gospel performers like Rev. Gary Davis. With Some Of These Days/ Just A Closer Walk With Thee/ If I Could Hear My Mother Pray/ You Can't Hide - 12 in all. (MB)

 
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE Southland SCD 15 Nothin' But The Blues ● CD $14.98
Enjoyable collection of 17 songs recorded live in England in 1959 and previously unissued. The duo are in good form on amostly familiar collection of songs (Mean Old Southern/ Pick A Bale Of Cotton/ Fox Chase/ Midnight Special/ How Long Blues/ John Henry, etc) along with a few less frequently recorded (Twelve Gates To The City/ I Got Fooled

 
SONNY TERRY/ BLIND GARY DAVIS Collectables 5607 The Stinson Collectors Series ● CD $11.98

 
SONNY TERRY, BROWNIE MCGHEE, COUSIN LEROY Blue City 813 Froggy Went A Courtin' ● CD $18.98
29 tracks, 79 mins, highly recommended
In spite of the shoddy packaging and total lack of documentation (not even who sings on what tracks!) this is an exciting and important release featuring some superb New York blues. Highlight is the extended look at the recordings of the outstanding and mysterious Cousin Leroy (Rozier) recorded at two sessions in 1955 and 1957 including four previously unissued songs and three unissued alternate takes from the second session - all of it excellent. Leroy was a terrific and powerful singer and is accompanied by small groups which included Jack Dupree on piano, the great Larry Dale on guitar and, on the second session, Sonny Terry playing some dynamite electric harp. Based on his style and choice of material I would guess that he's from Mississippi. His Crossroads is a masterpiece - using the tune and some of the lyrics of the traditional Catfish it has an opening verse that has one of the best evocations of the crossroads myth " I Walked Down By The Crossroads Just To Learn How Play My Guitar Well A Man Walked Up Son Let Me Tune It That Was The Devil That Was The Devil" and it features a wonderful tremolo laden guitar solo overladen with hot harp (is it really Sonny Terry?!). There is also a completely different alternate of this song which sounds like a rehearsal. Other great songs by him include Highway 41/ Stringbeans (two takes of an unissued song)/ Woke Up With The Blues/ Sail On/ Voodoo/ I'm Lonesome/ Catfish and others. The 14 other tracks on this collection feature our old friends Sonny & Brownie in a variety of settings - mostly from the 50s along with three from 1944 and all of them excellent and not readily available elsewhere. It includes the two sides with Sonny and his nephew J.C. Burris, one of them a bluesy treatment of the children's somg which gives this album its title, Sonny's hard to find Gramercy sessions and some fine sessions with small electric groups. Sound is generally fine though the three tracks from 1944 exhibit over use of digital noise reduction. I wish a label like Ace could have tackled this project and give it the production values the music deserves but nevertheless I unequivocally recommend this set - Cousin Leroy will knock you out. (FS)

 
JIMMY THACKERY Blind Pig 5011 Trouble Man ● CD $16.98

 
JIMMY THACKERY & THE DRIVERS Blind Pig 5001 Empty Arms Motel ● CD $16.98
10 tracks, 46 min., good. There really are some great white blues guitarists out there, and Thackery is one of the more tasteful I've heard in a while. But I worry that blues singing will soon be a lost art, or is at least lost on these guys who think that gravelly gargling noises are the closest they can come to soulful vocalizing. Stick with the instrumental sizzle of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Rude Mood, the Mar-Key's Last Night, and the faithful copy of Hendrix's Red House, unless the sound of someone giving themselves a sore throat turns you on. (MB)

 
JIMMY THACKERY & JOHN MOONEY Blind Pig 5006 Sideways In Paradise ● CD $16.98
Blues and ragtime renditions on acoustic guitar, mandocello and mandolins, 1993

 
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE Document DOCD 5335 Complete Recorded Works, 1938-1944, Vol 2 : 1941-1944 ● CD $15.98
27 tracks, 73 min., Recommended
Most gospel singers made few if any records during WW II, thanks to shellac shortages, but Rosetta Tharpe and her fans were blessed in that regard. And while the songs here are mostly religious, the opener, cut with Lucky Millinder And His Orchestra, is a version of I Want A Tall Skinny Papa that must have given her regular churchgoing audience fits. Of course, her religious songs sounded pretty secular most of the time anyway. Her second recording of This Train is notable if only because she's backed by Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five. Similarly, Rosetta is accompanied by the capable Sam Price Trio on the exceptional and popularStrange Things Happening Every Day and on its original flip Two Little Fishes And Five Loaves Of Bread. But much of the time it's just Sister Tharpe and her guitar. And that's fine. (JC)

 
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE Fremeaux & Associates 017 Gospel, 1938-43 ● CD $15.98
18 tracks, 50 min., recommended Born Rosetta Nubin in 1915, this energetic female gospel pioneer began her musical career singing "the devil's music" at the famous Cotton Club in New York City. Within a few years, however, she had turned her full attention to sacred music presumably because God "don't like" the blues. And, as this look at her earliest recordings demonstrates, her choice did result in some mighty "joyful noise." Featured recordings include Just a Closer Walk with Thee/ Sit Down/ Rock Me/ This Train/ Stand by Me/ Nobody's Fault But Mine/ All Over This World, and Precious Lord Take My Hand. Sound quality is good given the dates of the material; the brief English notes are informative/ and cover graphics are basic but appropriate. (DH)

 
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE Proper BOX 51 The Original Soul Sister ● CD $26.98
Due early November. Four CD set with 81 early sides by this great gospel singer and guitarist. Includes booklet with rare and unpublished photos.

 
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE Savgos 5008 Precious Memories ● CD $16.98
10 tracks, 44 minutes, highly recommended
Reissue of Savoy 14214 from 1968 - one of this great artists' last sessions. They are, for the most part, remakes of earlier classic Decca recordings. Although not as strong as her earlier work Rosetta is in fine form with powerful vocals and energetic guitar work accompanied by a small group with organ, piano, bass and drums. Rosetta seems to get more energized as the album progresses starting off with fairly tame performances of Precious Memories and Come By Here with most of the instrumental work dominated by the organ. By the time she starts Walking Up The Kings Highway she is sounding much more enthusiastic throws in some terrific guitar licks and she ends of the set with a riproaring version of one of her best known songs This Train with some sermonizing, great singing and stellar guitar work. (FS)

 
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE Southland SCD 1007 Live In 1960 ● CD $14.98
Sister Rosetta Tharpe always loved to travel, and although she hated cities she adored her fans. This 12-song CD, recorded live in England in 1960, highlights her down-home earthy style and country way of singing gospel. The first to popularize the electrified guitar in the church, she had a vigorous picking style which at times broke into wild staccato, and influenced even the like of T-Bone Walker. Moments such as these are briefly captured on the bridges of songs Didn't It Rain/ Gospel Train/ Down By The Riverside. Just good ole country gospel singing, strumming, and foot tapping as only the gal from Cotton Plant, Arkansas can do it. Recorded earlier, and with better balance than the Milan CD in our last newsletter. (OLN)

 
LOVIN' SAM THEARD Document DOCD 5479 In Chronological Order ● CD $15.98
25 tracks, 73 mins, very good
A collection of recordings featuring this talented performer who achieved most of his acclaim as a comic, actor and songwriter - he wrote the blues/ jazz standard - You Rascal You and wrote Let The Good Times Roll for Louis Jordan. His first recording of You Rascal You from July, 1929 is available on Blues Documents 6040 ("Cow Cow Davenport - The Accompanist") - this set features You Rascal You - No. 2 from 1930 with an unknown piano accompaniment. Theard was a decent singer and has some good accompaniments from Tampa Red, Cow Cow Davenport, John Oscar & others. Most of his repertoire consists of standard hokum fare full of predictable double etendres She Skuffles That Ruffvin' It Away/ Doodle It Back/ Hot Dog Man/ Get It In Front/ She Can Love So Good and the like. There are a few more interesting songs like Three Sixes (what is he singing about here) and two almost country blues flavored songs with nice slide guitar from Willie B. James though sound quality on these is pretty rough. Excellent notes by Tony Russell. (FS)

 
LITTLE AL THOMAS & THE CRAZY HOUSE BAND Crosscut CCR 11068 In The House - Live At Lucerne, Vol. 3 ● CD $21.98
10 tracks, 58 minutes, very good
Little Al Thomas stepped into the spotlight with 1999's "South Side Story" on the now-defunct Cannonball label and proved he was a force to be reckoned with and this outing stems from a 2000 appearance in Lucerne with the same core band from his last release; John Edelmann's guitar along with Mot Dutko and T. Edward Gamelchick providing the grooves. Alto and tenor sax beef up the sound and everyone provides solid support. Edelmann proves himself a solid songwriter with a pair, Bad Luck Baby, a storming shuffle and Memphis Girl, a funky blues, while gems from long ago get updates on Casey Bill Weldon's Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door, Big Bill's Feel So Good, Magic Sam's Just Like A Fish, and Chuck Willis' Feel So Bad. They also take off on Sweet Sixteen and I Gotta Find My Baby, and a smoldering Nobody Sleepin' In My Bed. A barnstorming set of blues. (CR)

 
HENRY THOMAS Yazoo 1080/1 Texas Worried Blues ● CD $15.98
Henry Thomas was one of the greats of early blues with a repertoire that included many songs that predated blues as well as music influenced by white country and popular music. He was a Texas singer and guitarist who often punctuated his singing and guitar playing with the uncommon sound of the pan-pipes or quills - a remarkably effective addition to his music. This disc is a reissue of the long out of print double album on Herwin with new cover and new notes by Stephen Calt whose writing is drier and more analytical than that of the original notes by Mack McCormick. It features all 23 issued songs recorded by Thomas between 1927 and '29. Thomas's music is intensely melodic and it's not surprising that some of his songs (Fishing Blues/ Honey Won't You Allow Me One More Chance/ Don't Leave Me Here ) have been covered by white folk and blues interpreters. Sound is excellent throughout and if you have not heard this before it's well worth your time. (FS)

 
HOCIEL THOMAS/ LILLIE DELK CHRISTIAN Document DOCD 5448 In Chronological Order, 1925-1928 ● CD $15.98
25 tracks, 75 min., good
Nothing here proves what a good blues singer Hociel Thomas could be, but her 10 sides may be of interest because her backing group is Louis Armstrong's Jazz Four -- Hociel's father was Hersal Thomas. And yet, even Armstrong, Hersal, Johnny Dodds, and Johnny St. Cyr seem unable or unwilling to lift these bluesy pop numbers to any interesting elevation. Lillie Delk Christian was a jazz singer of pop songs, not a blues singer, and again, accompaniment tends to be the most interesting element in these recordings, and again, Armstrong (with his Hot Five,this time) is one of the backing musicians. So are Earl Hines and Jimmie Noone. The results are mixed, though generally quite satisfying as My Blue Heaven, Ain't She Sweet, You're A Real Sweetheart and a couple of others confirm. Last Night I Dreamed You Kissed Me can perhaps most kindly be described as an egregious error. (Note: Hociel Thomas' early recordings are available on DOCD-5224.) (JC)

 
IRMA THOMAS Rounder 2128 Walk Around Heaven ● CD $15.98
10 tracks, 47 min., recommended
A splendid 1993 gospel session, showing that this New Orleans soul sensation, best known perhaps for Wish Someone Would Care and Time Is On My Side, both from 1964, is still in very fine form indeed. This latest set from her current label includes spiritual standards like the title track and Ask What You Will, up tempo tunes like Just a Little While to Stay Here, and the Christmas standard Oh Holy Night, all performed with power and conviction. Not for the musically timid. Whether you're a fan of Thomas's or a general fan of gospel music, this disc is a winner. Impeccable sound, brief notes, and solid graphics. (DH)

 
JAMES "SON" THOMAS Evidence 26095 Beefsteak Blues ● CD $12.98
12 tracks, 45 mins, very good
Reissue of early 80s album originally on the German L+R label plus a couple of bonus cuts drawn from L+R compilations - some recorded live in Europe. Mississippi Delta bluesman Thomas was a good singer and guitarist with a repertoire that mostly consisted of blues standards like Mama Don't 'Low No Guitar Playin' Round Here/ Rock Me Mama/ Standing At The Crossroads/ Smokey Mountain and others though Thomas often gives them an original twist. Highlights are the powerful title song and a lengthy version of Catfish Blues with some naughty lyrics. (FS)

 
JAMES "SON" THOMAS Swingmaster 2204 Mississippi Delta Blues Man ● CD $18.98
CD issue of album recorded in Holland in 1981 during the first European tour of this fine Mississippi country bluesman. Pleasing renditions of somewhat overly familiar songs including Big Leg Woman/ Whiskey Headed Woman/ Take A Little Walk/ Lonesome Road Blues/ Hard Time Blues/ Catfish Blues (a "naughty" version)/ Bull Cow Blues and others.

 
KID THOMAS Wolf WBJ 012 Here's My Story ● CD $14.98
This is one for diehard harmonica freaks. Kid Thomas (Tommy Louis Watts) was a fine singer and harmonica player from Mississippi who originally settled in Chicago. He eventually moved to the West Coast in 1960 where he was murdered in 1970 in tragic circumstances. He only recorded a handful of songs and had his only commercial release in 1957 - the Howling Wolf flavored Wolf Pack The Spell. This disc features all the outtakes from the session include four alternates of Wolf Pack and two of The Spell plus 6 unissued songs including 5 takes of the relatively pedestrain Beaulah Come Back! Individually, each of the songs is fine with powerful singinga dharp blowing and solid backup but the plethora of alternate takes is really too much to take. It would have made more sense to feature the ebst take of each song and fill out the disc with his fine but uncommon singles recorded in the 60s. Still, being a CD, you can always skip over the multiple alternates! (FS)

 
RAMBLIN' THOMAS Document DOCD 5107 & The Dallas Blues Singers 1928-1932 ● CD $15.98
Willard "Ramblin'" Thomas was an outstanding country-blues guitarist who recorded for Paramount and Victor. In addition to his 16 songs on this set, several other performers round out the disc. There are five songs by Jesse "Babyface" Thomas (Willard's little borther), two by Sammy Hill, and another pair by Otis Harris, all of which have been previously reissued, though not on CD. But it's Ramblin' Thomas, his exquisite slide playing and singing, and his dark, direct visions that are at the center of this fine disc. (JG)

 

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