NEWSLETTER #130
Blues & Gospel
Shout Factory/ Biograph

 

Shout Factory is a new company formed by Richard Foos - formerly with Rhino Records. They have purchased the famed Biograph label and have started an ambitious reissue program which includes reissue of long unavailable Biograph albums as well as putting together new compilations and some exciting DVDs. They have put together a six CD series entitled "Heroes Of The Blues” which features career retrospectives spanning a wide variety of labels by some great blues artists who haven’t been given career spanning retrospectives in the past.

 

REV. GARY DAVIS
SON HOUSE
SKIP JAMES
FURRY LEWIS
MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL
BLIND WILLIE MCTELL
MA RAINEY
VARIOUS ARTISTS
 

REV. GARY DAVIS Shout Factory 30257 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Rev. Gary Davis ● CD $13.98
This disc was compiled by some guy named Frank Scott so you know it's got to be good! But seriously folks, I have tried to present a balanced cross section of records by this great and important artists ranging from his earliest recordings in the 30s to his recordings for Bluesville, Adelphi, Folk Lyric and Biograph in the 50s, 60s and early 70s touching on most of most well known songs. Includes Samson & Delilah/ Cross & Evil Woman Blues/ Lord I Wish I Could See/ Out On The Ocean sailing/ Candy Man/ I Belong To The Band, Hallelujah/ Crucifixon/ Cocaine Blues and more. Includes notes by Ed Ward.

 
SON HOUSE Biograph 30170 Delta Blues ● CD $13.98
15 tracks, 58 mins, highly recommended. These recordings are truly magnificent. Eddie "Son" House was one of the greatest Mississippi Delta bluesmen - a ferocious singer and a stirring slide guitarist. He was at his prime when these recordings were collected by Alan Lomax in 1941 and 1942 for the Library Of Congress. Four of the tracks are with a wonderful string band featuring Willie Brown/ gtr, Fiddlin' Joe Martin/ mandolin & Leroy Williams/ harmonica who urge Son along with joyous shouts and additional vocalizing. The other 10 are just Son alone with his steel bodied National guitar. These tracks are available in slightly inferior sound on Travelin' 02 which includes four additional tracks. (FS)

 
SON HOUSE Shout Factory 30251 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Son House ● CD $13.98
This 16 track retrospective by the great Delta bluesman features 3 of the tracks he recorded for Paramount in 1930, 11 tracks recorded by Alan Lomax for the the Library Of Congress (also on Biograph 30170 above!), one of his Columbia recordings from 1965 and two live performances from the same year. includes My Black Mama, Part One/ Dry Spell Blues/ Levee Camp Blues/ Shetland Pony Blues/ Special Rider Blues/ American Defence/ Walkin' Blues/ Empire State Express, etc.

 
SKIP JAMES Biograph 30169 Hard Time Killing Floor Blues ● CD $13.98
12 tracks, 51 mins, highly recommended. Reissue of Biograph 122. It's hard to be objective about the music of Skip James - his singing and guitar playing are so stark, unique and haunting that just about everything he does sends a shiver down my spine. These are the first studio recordings James made after his rediscovery in 1964 when Bill Barth, Henry Vestine and John Fahey found him in a hospital in Tunica. MS. The 12 tracks here of the high-voiced James and his acoustic guitar, while not quite as good as his brilliant later Vanguard albums, are still superb featuring remakes of some of his classic Paramount recordings along with several new songs. His Sick Bed Blues/ Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues, written about his struggles with cancer, are downright chilling. A fine reworking of his classic Devil Got My Woman is here too, as are Hardtime Killing Floor Blues/ Illinois Blues/ Catfish Blues/ All Night Long/ Cherry Ball Blues and more. Excellent sound and informative notes from Brett Bonner of Living Blues magazine. (JC)

 
SKIP JAMES Shout Factory 30245 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Skip James ● CD $13.98
16 track retrospective featuring two tracks recorded by Skip in 1931 for Paramount along with 14 tracks recorded for Biograph, Adelphi and Vanguard in the 60s - 22-20 Blues/ Special Rider Blues/ How Long Blues/ Sick Bed Blues/ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues/ Illinois Blues/ Cherry Ball Blues/ Everybody's Leaving Here, etc.

 
FURRY LEWIS Shout Factory 30248 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Furry Lewis ● CD $13.98
16 track collection of the great Memphis country bluesman includes three of his classic Victor sides from 1928 along with 13 tracks recorded in the 60s for Adelphi (with Lee Baker Jr. on backup guitar), Biograph and Bluesville. Includes Furry's Blues/ Judge Harsh Blues/ Natural Born Eastman/ If You Follow Me Babe/ Why Don't You Come Home Blues/ St. Louis Blues/ Long Tall Gal Blues/ Shake 'Em On Down/ Bbay You Don't Want Me, etc.

 
MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL Shout Factory 30256 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Mississippi Fred ● CD $13.98
16 track retrospective compiled and annotated by Frank Scott featuring recordings covering his career from the late 50s through the 60s - Write Me A few Lines/ My Baby/ Kokomo Blues/ 61 Highway/ Pea Vine Special/ Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning/ On The Frisco Line/ Drop Down Mama, etc.

 
BLIND WILLIE MCTELL Biograph 30171 Pig 'n Whistle Red ● CD $13.98
20 tracks, 54 mins, highly recommended. Previously issued as Biograph 126. The 20 tracks here were recorded for Regal in Atlanta in 1950. Only three 78s were issued but Biograph turned up the rest of the sides when going through Regal's vaults some years ago and the material was issued on two LPs (12008 and 12035). McTell's vocals and magnificent 12 string guitar work are accompanied by another great Georgia singer/ guitarist - Curley Weaver. Weaver takes the vocals on 3 songs and they duet on several. The material includes remakes of songs McTell recorded in the 20s and 30s (Love Changin' Blues/ Savannah Mama/ Talkin' To You Mama, etc) along with some they had not recorded elsewhere (Don't Forget It/ You Can't Get Stuff No More/ Pal Of Mine, the gruesome A To Z Blues, etc) and several gospel numbers. The singing and playing are a joy to listen to throughout and only marginally less exciting than their pre-war recordings. Good notes by Don Kent and superb remastering by Dr. Toby Mountain. (FS)

 
MA RAINEY Shout Factory 30252 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Ma Rainey ● CD $13.98
Beautiful selection of 16 sides by this wonderful and important blues singer. The poorly recorded and pressed Paramount 78s have been newly remastered by engineering wizard Jack Towers and sound better than ever. Includes Jealous Hearted Blues/ Hear Me Talkin' To You/ Bo Weavil Blues/ Those All Night Blues/ See See Rider/ Yonder Comes The Blues/ Seeking Blues/ New Bo Weavil Blues, etc. Five duplications with Yazoo 1071.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Shout Factory DVD 30179 Deep Blues ● CD $14.98
DVD, approximately 90 minutes, highly recommended. Amazingly, a dozen years have passed since this originally appeared on video, and in that time we have witnessed the passing of many who took part in the film; Booker T. Laury, Wade Walton, Frank Frost, Lonnie Pitchford, Booba Barnes and others, including host, respected musicologist, and guide Robert Palmer. Executive producer Dave Stewart (better recognized as guitarist and counterpart to Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics) joined Palmer for a compelling look at part of Mississippi's blues scene by visiting performers R.L. Burnside, Jack Owens, Bud Spires, Junior Kimbrough, and more. Kimbrough delivers a tough and trance-like All Night Long at his own juke joint, R.L. Burnside at home doing Long Haired Doney and Jumper On The Line, and Big Jack Johnson rolling through Catfish Blues and the overly long Daddy When Is Momma Coming Home. Palmer also visited Beale Street in Memphis, Lonnie Pitchford playing diddley bow and slide guitar, and Jessie Mae Hemphill. Bonus footage not in the original version consists of another performance by Lonnie Pitchford as well an interview, R.L. Burnside and Dave Stewart in a juke joint jam session, and additional coverage of Memphis pianist Laury. There is also some bonus audio of the Jelly Roll Kings, Barnes, Kimbrough, Burnside, and Pitchford. When originally issued, it stood as remarkable film by director Robert Mugge documenting a living, breathing tradition of blues. Today, it stands as a time capsule and stark reminder of just how mortal and fleeting that tradition has become. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Shout Factory DVD 30181 Can't You Hear The Wind Howl - Life & Music Of Robert Johnson ● CD $14.98
DVD, approximately 75 minutes, color, very good. As time has progressed, Robert Johnson has taken on an even more legendary status regardless of detective work by researchers like Gayle Dean Wardlow, Mack McCormick, and others. Johnson is credited with being perhaps the first Delta bluesman to fully combine the driving bass figures of 1920s boogie pianists and the slashing, early 1930s slide guitar technique of Son House and others to deliver what would later become modern Chicago blues. But more than a brilliant blues guitarist, Johnson's life and death have taken on mythical status because of his songwriting which occasionally dealt with what can best be described as the "darker side" of life. Were Hellhound On My Trail, Me And The Devil Blues, and If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day, truly autobiographical works or was he merely taking a road less traveled by his influences? Danny Glover hosts this hour-and-fifteen-minute documentary (from 1997) while Keb' Mo' plays the role of Johnson by lip-synching to some of his songs and portraying him, without speaking, in certain situations. It will be a completely worthwhile ride for those interested in Johnson's supposed connection with the occult world, but for those wishing to gain further insight into Johnson as a man, it remains somewhat vacant. One major assertion that still confounds some even more than a half-dozen years after the original release is just where Glover garnered his information that Robert Johnson became a God-fearing man on his deathbed by scrawling a note asking forgiveness for his sins. There are some rewarding interview segments with Johnny Shines and Honeyboy Edwards, both who knew Johnson personally, as well as cameos by Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Keith Richards, and others. Although not a stunning piece of cinematography, it is a fair (but somewhat lopsided) look at one of the more legendary musical figures of 20th Century America. (CR)

 

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