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Various Artists Collections - Pre War Blues In St. Louis

VARIOUS ARTISTS Document DOCD 5181 St. Louis (1927-33) ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 70 mins, recommended. At times, a strange and haunting collection, this is not for the faint of heart as a number of tracks are from very worn and poorly recorded 78s. Still there is some fascinating and atypical St Louis blues here. The first 10 tracks feature Henry Johnson And His Boys doing instrumentals or accompanying vocalist Jelly Roll Anderson. This group had a strange sound with Johnson on fiddle, James Johnson on piano or celeste and Henry Moon and George Thomas on guitars. One of the guitarist is thought to actually be Lonnie Johnson while the other plays some very odd and eerie slide guitar. Other performers on this set include Bert "Snake Root" Hatton, Jesse Johnson - one of the few artists here with any kind of reputation performing the bizarre two part I Wish I Had Died In Egyptland, "Spider" Carter - who sounds like three different performers on his three tracks, and more. Not particularly easy listening but careful listening will be rewarded with some fine and unusual music. Paul Garon's notes are interesting but too brief. (FS)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Document DOCD 5182 St. Louis Girls (1927-34) ● CD $15.98
25 tracks, 70 min., recommended. Most of the cuts here, a baker's dozen (15 if you count the two by Elizabeth Washington, who may or may not have been the same woman), are by Lizzie Washington, whoever she was. With a restrained, low key delivery, she sings of prostitution, alcohol, black eyes, men and other well-trodden blues turf, on songs that include Daddy Threw Me Down Blues/ Whiskey Head Blues. One of Washington's backing musicians was Lonnie Johnson (using a pseudonym), and some cuts feature violin and celeste accompaniment, adding some necessary variety. Katherine Baker's 8 tracks feature the same line up (Henry Johnson And His Boys, by name), and her voice is more powerful than Washington's, a fact especially noticeable on Daddy Sunshine Blues. The disc ends with a pair of sides from Johnnie Strauss. (JC)


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