Blues & Gospel - Bulletin May/June 2009 - Cleo Brown -> Sonny Boy Williamson
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BULLETIN - May/ June 2009
Blues & Gospel
Cleo Brown ->
Sonny Boy Williamson + Book




CLEO BROWN Document JPCD 1532 Complete Recorded Works, March 1935 - June 1935 ● CD $15.98
19 tracks, recommended
Cleo was one of the first female Chicago boogie woogie singers/ pianists whose off color cabaret type stylings forged the way for Nellie Lutcher, Julia Lee and Martha Davis. Backed by small combos whose notable members included drummers Gene Krupa or Tubby Hall, guitarist Perry Botkin and others. Cleo's sly, sometimes coy, warblings set against strong bluesy piano solos made her one of the great boogie gals of the 30's, at times she comes off as a female Fats Waller. Includes her version of Pinetop Smith's classic Boogie Woogie plus (Lookie, Lookie, Lookie) Here Comes Cookie/ The Stuff Is Here And It's Mellow/ Pelican Stomp/ Give A Broken Heart A Break, etc. Theere have been previous Brown reissues on Classics and President but this is the first to feature all the extant alternate takes (8 in all).

KIRK FLETCHER JSP JSPCD 8820 I'm Here And Gone ● CD $16.98
15 tracks, almost highly recommended
Over the past decade Kirk Fletcher has become one of the most sought after blues guitarists on the West Coast. His style, though modern, is strongly rooted in traditional style with none of the rock excesses or overly flashy playing of some of his contemporaries. This CD reissues his first album from 1999 and adds as bonus tracks the four songs from his demo session. Not being a vocalist himself the vocals are taken here by Jackie Payne, John Marx or Roosevelt Caldwell. Of the three, Caldwell, who is featured on the demo recordings, is the most impressive. Payne strains a little too hard though when he ratchets things back like on the lovely minor key Silver Spoon the result is superb. Marx's singing is generally rather uninspired. Still with Fletcher's superb playing and fine band work this is a most worthwhile release. (FS)

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS Fuel 2000 61757 Blues From Dowling Street ● CD $14.98
Two CDs, 30 tracks, recommended
Fuel 2000 continues to recycle the Lightnin' Hopkins Jewel catalog. This two CD set includes two previously available Fuel CDs which feature two of Lightnin's albums recorded for Stan Lewis's Jewel label in the late 60s "Blue Lightnin'" and "Electric Show And Dance" along with a number of tracks from his other albums plus tracks not originally issued. Tracks range from solo sides with guitar to small groups with the fine piano of Elmore Nixon as well as a session with a larger group including with harmonica, organ and Eddie Hinton on guitar. Two of the tracks - Last Affair and Lonesome Dog Blues are RPM sides from 1951 that somehow ended up in the Jewel vaults. Lightnin', as always, was fine but the accompaniments are not always that sympathetic. If you're tired of shelling out for the same material you might consider P-Vine 5627/8 "Blue Lightnin' - The Complete Jewel Sessions" ($41.98) a two CD set with 43 tracks including almost all the Jewel recordings issued and unissued. (FS)

JO ANN KELLY Hatman 2023 Do It & More ● CD $18.98
16 tracks, 53 mins, very highly recommended
Although I am not a big fan of white blues performers, I am unabashed fan of the music of English blues interpreter Jo Ann Kelly. Part of it is nostalgia as she is one of the first people I saw performing in English clubs in the 60s but I really think that she has a natural blues quality to her singing which avoids the strangulated quality of many white blues performers. This CD reissues her 1976 Red Rag album "Do It" and adds three bonus cuts from her 1988 album "Open." "Do It", I think, was Jo Ann's best album - she was in truly fine voice and is given particularly sympathtic accompaniments - in addition to her own fine six and 12 string guitar playing she is joined on many of the cuts by Pete Emery on guitars or mandolin and, on some cuts, John Pilgrim on washboard and Mike Piggott on violin. Jo Ann adored Memphis Minnie and she does particularly fine versions of three of Minnie's songs Where Is My Good Man/ Me And My Chauffeur and Nothin' In Ramblin - on the latter when she sings "I Was Born In Louisiana/ Raised In Algiers" you can almost believe it. She also does Mr. Memphis Minnie's (Kansas Joe) Black Rat Swing, John Lee Hooker's arrangement of Come Back Baby, Swing Down Sweet Chariot in the style of the Staple Singers, Muddy's I Can't Be Satisfied and others. Unusually for Jo Ann she does a couple of non blues songs and they are very fine - her own love ballad A Little More Time and Jesse Winchester's moving Do It. Had she wanted to, Jo Ann could have joined any number of name blues bands but preferred performing in more initimate settings with and for friends. The booklet includes touching notes by Emery who was her partner and accompanying musician from 1974 until her tragically early death of a brain tumor in 1988. More than 20 years after her death her music retains a rare quality, integrity and believability. (FS)

LOUISIANA RED RUF 1149 Back To Black Bayou ● CD $15.98
12 tracks, highly recommended
New album from the prolific but always worthwhile Louisiana Red. On this album Red revisits some of his favorite songs from throughout his lengthy career - some dating back to his classic 1962 Roulette session. Red is in fine form with strong vocals and excellent guitar work including some excellent slide work. Nearly all the songs are original by Red - some of them with a topical edge. He is accompanied by the solid down home band Little Victor & His Juke Joint led by guitarist and harmonica player Little Victor. Various guest musicians are included including harmonica players Kim Wilson & Bob Corritore, Dave Maxwell and Reider Forsberg. Occasionally the band threatens to overwhelm Red but, for the most part, they complement his singing and playing very well. Songs include I'm Louisiana Red/ Crime In Motion/ Sweet Leg Girl/ Too Poor To Die/ You Done Quit Me/ Roamin' Stranger, etc. (FS)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Numero 026 Local Customs: Downriver Revival ● CD $19.98
CD/ DVD: CD - 24 tracks, 67 mins/ DVD - Approximately 200 tracks, highly recommended
The gang at Numero returns in their never ending quest to find obscure American R&B treasures; this time they bring us the productions of Felton Williams, who recorded the talented folks of Ecorse, MI (downriver from Detroit, hence the CD's title) between 1967 and 1981. These tracks were originally issued on the Solid Rock, Compose, and Revival labels, and this compilation presents 24 Williams gems - 8 of them previously unreleased, covering mostly gospel (the best exponents being Shirley Ann Lee, and Calvin Cooke), but also touching on primitive jazz funk (Bobby Cook & the Explosions, Organics), vocal group soul (Combinations), and even a foray into garage rock courtesy of Young Generation . And for the first time anywhere (or at least in our recollection) the set includes a DVD archive of 200 sound recordings from Williams' vaults-ie a virtual library of Williams' creations. Here there's everything from a home-produced radio show for Shirley Ann Lee, alternative versions of songs on the CD, many additional artists and even a steel guitar tutorial. This is a really remarkable accomplishment and an invaluable insight into the working of an independent record operation. The DVD also includes a30 minute video documentary of the making of this CD. Numero's collections rarely fail to entertain, and this one is no exception. (GMC)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Storyville 8604 The Blues Box ● CD $74.98
Seven CDs + DVD, 153 tracks + 23 tracks, recommended Fine box set documenting some of the blues recordings made for the famed Danish jazz and blues label Storyville. During the 60s and 70s the label issued a string of important blues LPs - some material licensed from U.S. labels and others recorded in Denmark by visiting blues musicians. The CDs feature music recorded by Storyville between 1956 and 1977 - mostly in the studio and some live. Artists include Lonnie Johnson (13 tracks from 1963 with Otis Spann on piano), Otis Spann (8 tracks, mostly solo, from 1963), Speckled Red (13 tracks from 1960), Sunnyland Slim (8 tracks from 1964), Roosevelt Sykes (9 tracks from 1966), Sippie Wallace (8 tracks from 1966 accompanied by Roosevelt Sykes or Little Brother Montgomery), Little Brother Montgomery (5 from 1972), Big Joe Williams (10 tracks from 1963), Sleepy John Estes (seven from 1967 live concert with Hammie Nixon on harmonica or jug), Robert Pete Williams (7 tracks from 1972 - some with Big Joe Williams on kazoo!), Big Bill Broonzy (15 tracks from live shows in 1956), John Henry Barbee (six tracks from 1964), Memphis Slim (11 tracks from 1960 with Danish musicians on drum and bass), Champion Jack Dupree (7 tracks recorded between 1960 and 1964), Eddie Boyd ( 3 tracks from 1968), Jay McShann (3 from 1977), Sonny Boy Williamson (9 tracks from 1963 - solo or with Memphis Slim and/or Matt Murphy) and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee (9 tracks from 1971). The DVD includes 3 songs by Sonny Boy Williamson from 1963 with Swedish musicians which has been reissued a number of times, three by Champion Jack Dupree from 1986 and a film featuring performances from the 80s by Robert Lockwood Jr, James Booker, Henry Gray, Boogie Bill Webb and Cousin Joe. The quality of the music varies from superb to not so good. I would have preferred more Otis Spann and less Lonnie Johnson whose songs are a little too samey and Big Joe Williams' kazoo playing on some of the Robert Pete sides rather detract from otherwise superb performances. The 40 page booklet has informative notes by Chris Albertson on the artists and the recordings but nothing about the history of the Storyville label which is a shame as the label's contributions are substantial. In all I would say that if you don't already have many of these recordings on previous CD reissues this is a very worthwhile purchase - otherwise, you might want to give it some thought. (FS)

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON Snapper Blues 027 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl ● CD $9.98
24 tracks, highly recommended
Another fine introduction to one of the early blues giants from Snapper Blues - this time it's the great and incredibly influentail singer and harmonica playe John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Tracks here range from Good Morning, Little School Girl recorded at his first session in 1937 to Bring Another Half Pint (better known as Sloppy Drunk) from his last session in 1937. We can see the transition in Sonny Boy's style from the country blues style of his early sides with acoustic accompaniments on guitar and mandolin to the more urban feel of his later style with piano, drums and occasional electric guitar. Accompanying musicians include Robert Lee McCoy, Yank Rachell, Big Joe Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind John Davis, Big Maceo, Judge Riley and others. Excellent sound, informative notes and full discographical information is included. (FS)


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