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NEWSLETTER #130
Blues & Gospel
Various Artists Collections
 

 


VARIOUS ARTISTS 32-20 04 Trouble Hearted Blues - Vintage Guitar Blues, 1927-1944 ● CD $15.98
24 tracks, 75 mins, highly recommended
Superb collection of guitar accompanied blues. Every track has been out before but every track is a gem and many of them have not been overexposed. Artists featured include Julius Daniels, Willie Baker, Mattie Delaney (the gorgeous Tallahatchie River Blues), Pillie Bolling, Lottie Kimbrough (her classic Rolling Log Blues), Robert Wilkins, Tom Dickson, Willie Reed, Rambling Thomas (the superb Ground Hog Blues No. 2), Robert Lockwood (his great Black Spider Blues and Little Boy Blue), Ishman Bracey, Otto Virgial, Mae Glover, George Torey, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Joe Reynolds (both sides of the recently discovered Paramount), Memphis Minnie, Gabriel Brown, Bukka White, Tom Dickson and Sylvester weaver. Sound quality is generally excellent and there are informative notes by Keith Briggs. (FS)
WILLIE BAKER: Weak Minded Woman/ PILLIE BOLLING: Brown Skin Woman/ ISHMAN BRACEY: Trouble Hearted Blues/ GABRIEL BROWN: I'm Gonna Take It Easy/ JULIUS DANIELS: Ninety Nine Year Blues/ Richmond Blues Take 1/ MATTIE DELANEY: Tallahatchie River Blues/ TOM DICKSON: Death Bell Blues/ Labour Blues/ MAE GLOVER (AS BESSIE JONES): I Ain't Givin' Nobody None/ BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON: Rambler Blues/ LOTTIE KIMBOROUGH: Rolling Log Blues/ ROBERT LOCKWOOD: Black Spider Blues/ Little Boy Blues/ MEMPHIS MINNIE: Drunken Barrelhouse Blues/ WILLIE REED: Dreamin Blues/ BLIND JOE REYNOLDS: Cold Woman Blues/ Ninety Nine Blues/ RAMBLING THOMAS: Ground Hog Blues No.2/ GEORGE TOREY: Married Woman Blues/ OTTO VIRGIAL: Little Girl In Rome/ SYLVESTER WEAVER: Rock Pile Blues/ BUKKA WHITE: Special Stream Line/ ROBERT WILKINS: Get Away Blues

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Acrobat ACRCD 228 Queen Of Hits - The Macy's Recordings Story ● CD $10.98
27 tracks, 74 mins, highly recommended Excellent collection of blues and hillbilly recorded for Charles and Macy Lela Henry's Macy's label between 1949 and 1951. Although only active for two years the label launched the careers of several important Texas blues and country and hillbilly artists including country superstar Jim Reeves, who is not featured on this collection. On the blues side we have down home country blues from the prolific Smokey Hogg as well as more urban sides from Lester Williams (his first recordings), Clarence Garlow (his first recordings including his hit Bon Ton Roulet), Cab McMillan and Hubert Robinson. On the country side we have Cajun country legend Harry Choates with the hot western swing number Harry's Blues, the first commercial recordings of Tommy Scott including the great Tennessee with hot guitar from "Junior" Blevins plus, Curly Rash & His South Texas Playboys, Art Gunn & His Arizona Playboys (from Florida!), Barney Vardeman and His Drifting Texans and Bill Grady's Dixie Cowboys. Consistently fine music throughout with informative notes from Dave Penny. (FS)
HARRY CHOATES: Harry's Blues/ CLARENCE GARLOW: Blues As You Like It/ Bon Ton Roula/ Boogie Mood/ Jumpin' For Joy/ BILL GRADY: Ramblin Man/ ART GUNN: Boogie Woogie Blues/ SMOKEY HOGG: Leaving You Baby/ You Gotta Go/ CAB MCMILLAN: I'm Young And Able/ Three Women Blues/ CURLEY RASH: Humble Road Boogie/ HUBERT ROBINSON: Bad Luck And Trouble/ Boogie The Joint/ High Class Woman/ I Love You Baby/ Old Woman Boogie/ Room And Board Boogie/ TOMMY SCOTT: Tennessee/ When A Man Gets The Blues/ BARNEY VORDEMAN: Lets Call It Quits/ LESTER WILLIAMS: Dowling Street Hop/ Hey Jack/ I Know That Chick/ I'm So Glad I Could Jump And Shout/ Texas Town/ Wintertime Blues

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Arhoolie 9036 Angola Prison Spirituals ● CD $9.98
22 tracks, 75 mins, highly recommended
More great field recordings made by folklorist Harry Oster at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in the late 50s. The first 13 tracks were issued on LP Folklyric A-6 and the last nine are previously unissued. There are five tracks by the incredible Robert Pete Williams including the previously unissued When I Lay My Burden Down - he also accompanies vocalists Andy Mosley and Tom Dutson. Mosley is also featured on two sides accompanied by guitarist Hogman Maxey. There are two fine gospel quartets - both named the Angola Quartet - one is and older style quartet and is featured on two songs and the other is strongly influenced by the early 50s stylings of The Soul Stirrers. There's a powerful sermon with congregation by Rev. Benjamin Osborn and an unknown group of singers do the previously unissued Rise And Fly which is one of the highlights here - performed in work song style with gospel like harmonies it's a truly exciting performance. There are also three unissued tracks by the rather formal sounding Angola Choir. Booklet reproduces Oster's original liner notes with updates from Chris Strachwitz. (FS)
ANGOLA CHOIR (MURRAY TED MACON, DIRECTOR: Each Day (life's Evening Sun)/ I Take Jesus (do Lord, Remember Me)/ Steal Away To Jesus/ ANGOLA QUARTET (SIX) FROM CAMP A: Be With Me Jesus/ ANGOLA QUARTET: Brother Norah/ I'm Stranded On The Banks Of Ole Jordan/ See How They Done My Lord/ ANGOLA VOCAL GROUP: Rise And Fly/ ROOSEVELT CHARLES: Let My People Go/ TOM DUTSON: Dig My Grave With A Silver Spade/ Little School Song/ ANDY MOSELY: Brother Mosely Crossed The Water/ I Know I Got Religion/ I'm On My Way/ Jesus/ REV. BENJAMIN E. OSBORNE: The Old Ship Of Zion/ ROBERT "GUITAR" WELCH: What Shall I Do/ ROBERT PETE WILLIAMS: Church On Fire With The Word Of God/ Dyin' Soul/ I'm Goin' Back With Him When He Comes/ So Much Is Happenin' In The News/ When I Lay My Burden Down

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Columbia 90489 Feel Like Going Home - A Martin Scorsese Production ● CD $18.98
Scorsese winds his way from the banks of the Niger River in Mali to the cotton fields and juke joints of the Mississippi Delta to trace the origins of the blues in a combination of original performances and rare archival footage. CD includes tracks by Robert Johnson, Taj Mahal, Muddy Waters, Son House, Othar Turner, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Columbia 90490 Warming By the Devil's Fire - A Film By Charles Burnet ● CD $18.98
Director Burnett's film, based on his own experiences, mixes fictional storytelling with documentary footage in a tale about a young boy's encouter with his family in Mississippi in 1955 and the tensions between the heavenly strains of gospel and the devilish moans of the blues. The soundtrack CD includes tracks by Jelly Roll Morton, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Elmore james, W.C. handy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mildred Jones and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Columbia 90491 The Soul Of A Man - A Film By Wim Wenders ● CD $18.98
Winders' film looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists - Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir. It includes fictional sequences, rare archival footage, present day documentary scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary artists. CD includes tracks by Cassandra Wilson, Lucinda Williams, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, T Bone Burnett, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Shemekiah Copeland, Beck, Marc Ribot, Garland Jeffries, Lou Reed and others including one track each by James, Lenoir and Johnson. Mmmm - interesting!

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Columbia 90492 Piano Blues - A Film By Clint Eastwood ● CD $18.98
Eastwood explores his life-long passion for piano blues, using a treasure trove of rare historical acts as well as interviews and performances by Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Little Richard & Dr. John. CD includes performances by Pine Top Smith, Memphis Slim, Big Maceo, Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, Mary Lou Williams, Amos Milburn & Charles Brown, Jay McShann, Little Richard, Art Tatum and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Delmark DX 906 West Side Chicago Blues ● CD $7.98
9 tracks, 41 minutes, recommended
With Delmark celebrating their 50th anniversary, the new budget-priced "Saver Series" will prove a smart way to go for those just getting their feet wet in the vast world of blues. There are three specific releases beginning with this nine-song compilation showing off a good variety of artists including Otis Rush (Cut You A Loose), Magic Sam (I Need You So Bad), Jimmy Dawkins (Chittlins Con Carne), and Luther Allison (You Done Lost Your Good Thing) all with vintage performances. More modern practitioners include Syl Johnson with Driving Wheel, Tail Dragger on You Gotta Go, Little Arthur Duncan (the lone harp player) doing Singin' With The Sun, and Willie Kent's Do You Love Me? Johnny B. Moore is aboard as well on Sittin' Here Thinkin' - rounding out a fine collection for those just getting familiar with the slashing West Side style. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Delmark DX 907 Blues From Up The Country ● CD $7.98
11 tracks, 35 minutes, recommended
Another opportunity for newcomers to explore the wide variety of artists that grace Delmark's ever-growing catalog. The only recent performance here is Jimmy Burns' solid reading of Catfish Blues, but the remainder of the selections date as far back as 1949 with Champion Jack Dupree's Rub A Little Boogie, Jimmy Rogers' initial waxing of That's All Right, and Blind Willie McTell's stirring Hide Me In Thy Bosom. Big Joe Williams is stunning on his own 49 Highway Blues and he assists J.D. Short for You Got To Help Me Some. Robert Nighthawk's Crying Won't Help You remains a classic bottleneck tune, Curtis Jones is at the piano for Lonesome Bedroom Blues, and Yank Rachell appears with his mandolin for I'm Gonna Get Up In The Morning as well as helping out Sleepy John Estes for Beale Street Sugar. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup is also along with That's All Right. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Delmark DX 908 Masters Of The Boogie Piano ● CD $7.98
12 tracks, 39 minutes. recommended
Piano players are superbly represented here. Speckled Red set Delmark's blues catalog afoot in 1956 and his Wilkins Street Stomp is delightful, while the oldest tracks belong to Meade Lux Lewis (Bear Cat Crawl), Albert Ammons (Hersal Blues), and Pete Johnson with both Ammons and Lewis for a thundering six-hand delight for Boogie Woogie Prayer, each from 1939. Johnson also hands in a fine 66 Stomp backed by a small band, Roosevelt Sykes bellows the North Gulfport Boogie, Little Brother Montgomery leaves the towering Bass Key Boogie, and Robert McCoy delivers Bye Bye Baby. The disc also offers the modern talents of Sir Charles Thompson with A Boogie Woogie, Ken Saydak on Clo Clo Boogie, and Steve Behr's Memories Of Albert Ammons. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Fremeaux & Associes 5059 Harmonica Blues, Vol. 2 : 1946-1952 ● CD $25.98
Complementing Fremeaux 040 which featured harmonica blues recordings made between 1927 and 1941 this one focuses on the post war era featuring 36 tracks on two CDs recorded between 1946 and 1952. It includes some familiar names like both Sonny Boy Williamsons, Snooky Pryor, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, Sonny Terry, etc along with some more obscure artists like J.D. Horton, Billy Brazos, Sa, Kelly, Little Sam Davis, papa Lightfoot, Walter Mitchell & Robert Richard, Rhythm Willie and others.
SUNNY BLAIR: Five Foot Three/ BILLY BRAZOS: Brazos Blues/ GRACE BRIM: Man Around My Door/ EDDIE BURNS: Hello Miss Jessie Lee/ LITTLE SAM DAVIS: Going To New Orleans/ K.C. DOUGLAS & SIDNEY MAIDEN: Mercury Boogie/ DRIFTING SLIM: Down South Blues/ FRANK EDWARDS: Love My Baby/ FOREST CITY JOE: A Woman On Every Street/ JAZZ GILLUM: Take One More Chance With/ BIG WALTER HORTON: Little Boy Blue/ Now Tell Me Baby/ J.D. HORTON (OLE SONNY BOY): Cadillac Blues/ HOWLIN’ WOLF: Riding In The Moonlight/ PEE WEE HUGHES: Santa Fe Blues/ SONNY BOY JOHNSON: Come Home And Go With Me/ SAM KELLY: Rambling Around My Blues/ PETE LEWIS: Harmonica Boogie/ Scratchin‘/ PAPA LIGHTFOOT: Jumpin‘ With Jarvis/ The Honeydripper/ LITTLE MILTON (ANDERSON): Little Milton‘s Boogie/ LITTLE WALTER: Blue Midnight/ Sad Hours./ JOE HILL LOUIS: Walkin‘ Talkin‘ Blues/ WALTER MITCHELL & ROBERT RICHARD: Stop Mess Around/ SNOOKY PRYOR: Boogy Fool/ RHYTHM WILLIE: Wailin‘ Willie/ DOCTOR ROSS: My Bebop Gal/ SONNY TERRY: Baby, Let‘s Have Some Fun/ Harmonica Rhumba/ SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON (JOHN LEE WILLIAMSON): Hoodoo Hoodoo/ Mellow Chick Swing/ SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON (RICE MILLER): Mr Downchild/ Pontiac Blues/ ELDER R. WILSON: Better Get Ready

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Fuel 2000 61319 Chicago Blues Masters ● CD $19.98
2 CDs, 44 tracks, 129 minutes, highly recommended
With a new cover design, unsuspecting consumers might not recognize this two-disc set from Fuel 2000 for what it is, a repackaging of "Mr. Dixon's Workshop" (2001)˙and the "The USA Records Blues Story" (2002).˙Dixon's Workshop consists of 18 tracks by Otis Rush (My Love Will Never Die clocks in at over˙11 minutes with Dixon handling the rehearsal and passing off to Otis for a few broken attempts and˙two complete takes), Harold Burrage, Jesse Fortune, Magic Sam, Buster Benton (the grinding Spider In My Stew), Buddy Guy, and others. The USA Story is a stellar collection of 26 tracks (mostly pairs) by some major and minor Chicago greats like Eddy Clearwater, Andrew Brown, Koko Taylor, Homesick James, Lonnie Brooks, Willie Mabon, Ricky Allen, Detroit Junior, Jimmy Burns, Junior Wells, and more. There's certainly no shortage of great music here, and Bill Dahl's liner notes are the usual superb work we have come to expect, but as with all Fuel 2000 blues reissues, there are no session details. That's a small drawback for newcomers interested in˙a behind-the-scenes look at who's doing what.˙ (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 7050 The Road To Memphis - A Film By Richard Pearce ● CD $18.98
Director Pearce traces the musical odyssey of B.B. King in a film that pays tribute that gave birth to a new style of blues including vintage and contemporary musical performances. CD features Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Bobby Rush, Little Junior's Blue Flames, Hubert Sumlin & David Johansen, Rose Gordon and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 103002 American Folk Blues Festival, 1962-1966 ● CD $16.98
16 track CD collection of songs featured on the two incredible DVDs just issued on DVD. Includes songs by Howlin' Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Memphis Slim, Junior Wells, Lightnin' Hopkins, Eddie Boyd, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and others. Some wonderful music but one thing puzzles me - the DVDs feature video and music and 18 performances each for $17.98 whereas the audio CD has only 16 songs for $16.98 - why not more songs on the CD or a cheaper price?

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 3930 Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues - A Musical Journey ● CD $64.98
Five CD box set with 115 tracks tracing the blues from its origins to the present day. Includes sides by Mamie Smith, Furry Lewis, Frank Stokes, Tommy Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, Lead Belly, Robert Johnson, Robert Petway, Big Maceo, Joe Liggins, T-Bone Walker, Memphis Slim, Rosco Gordon, Guitar Slim, Fats Domino, Sonny Williamson, Chuck Berry, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Hound Dog Taylor, Robert Cray, Keb' Mo', Los Lobos and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 6270 Godfathers & Sons - A Film By Marc Levin ● CD $18.98
Hip-hop artist Chuck D and Marshall Chess return to Chicago to explore the heyday of Chicago blues as they unite to produce an album that seeks to bring veteran blues players together with contemporary hip-hop musicians. Includes previously unissued archival footage by Muddy, Wolf, Paul Butterfield and others. CD includes performances by Jimmy Rogers, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, Common, ElectriK Mud Cats and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 7280 Red, White & Blues - A Film by Mike Figgis ● CD $18.98
Director Figgis joins musicians such as Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Tom Jones performing and talking about the music of the early 60s British invasion. CD includes performances by Tom Jones & Jeff Beck, The Dixie Four, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lulu, Humphrey Lyttleton, Ray Charles, JOhn Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac and others.

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O DVD 75009 American Folk Blues Festival, 1962-1966, Volume 1 ● CD $17.98
DVD 18 tracks, approx 75 mins, black & white, highly recommended
The first of two incredible DVDs featuring footage shot in Germany in the 60s of some true blues greats who were on tour in Europe as part of the series of tours organized by German promoters Horst Lippman and Fritz Rau under the banner of "American Folk Blues Festival". Originally presented as television shows on German TV, this is the first time that any of this footage has been issued commercially. Some of the performances are filmed in front of a small studio audience and some are filmed on a somewhat hokey set. Artists featured on this volume include Shakey Jake (with T-Bone Walker on guitar), Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Memphis Slim (with some great Matt Murphy guitar), Otis Rush (a bit restrained), Lonnie Johnson (superb), Sippie Wallace, John Lee Hooker (possible the highlight with a stunning solo performance of Hobo Blues), Eddie Boyd, Walter "Shakey" Horton, Junior Wells, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Willie Dixon (the only performance less than excellent), Sonny Boy Williamson (with Otis Spann on piano), Otis Spann and Muddy Waters (Got My Mojo Working with harp by Sonny Boy!). There is an 18th bonus cut from 1969 featuring a wild instrumental from Earl Hooker. Video and audio quality is superb and the DVD comes with a 24 page illustrated booklet with informative notes by Robb Bowman. I was living in England and got to see the 1963,'64 and '65 tours and these DVDs bring back some very fond memories. (FS)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O DVD 75109 American Folk Blues Festival, 1962-1966, Volume 2 ● CD $17.98
DVD 18 tracks, approx 70 mins, black & white, essential
More incredible performances drawn from film shot in the 60s of the American Folk Blues Festival. This includes three songs by the great Howlin' Wolf with Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon and Billie Stepney. REturning from volume 1 there are two more songs from the always wonderful Sonny Boy Williams, two songs from Willie Dixon and onee ach from Memphis Slim and Sonny & Brownie. This volume also features performances from Lightnin' Hopkins, Victoria Spivey (with Lonnie Johnson on guitar), T-Bone Walker (a superb performance of Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong), Roosevelt Sykes and all star harmonica jam finale featuring (all on harmonica) Big Mama Thornton, Big Walter Horton, J.B. Lenoir, Doctor Ross and John Lee Hooker! And whatever you do don't miss the two bonus tracks from 1969 featuring two stunning performances by Magic Sam that are possibly the finest on the two volumes and reminds us, once again, what an incredible loss his early death was to the blues world. The 28 page booklet includes the same notes by Rob Bowman plus different pictures. (FS)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS JSP 7715 Legends Of Country Blues ● CD $28.98
5 CDs, 104 tracks, essential
What a line up! Disc A - Skip James in 1931, recording blues so unique they might have come from a parallel universe, followed by the blistering intensity of Son House's Paramount session. Disc B - the historic Son House Library of Congress recordings. Disc C - Bukka White singing Shake 'Em On Down with the police waiting to arrest him, later drawing on his prison experiences and producing "the last great country blues session" with Washboard Sam. Disc D - Tommy Johnson, a man who probably never asked for a cool drink of water in his life, at least not if Sterno cooking fuel was available, but who nevertheless produced beautiful, evocative blues, unerringly sung and with brilliantly conceived and executed guitar parts. Disc E - Ishmon Bracey, Johnson's playing partner and a fine singer who was capable of producing effective and memorable blues in his own right.
All of this material has of course already been issued on CD, some of it on several labels, which makes JSP's claim that the sound has been "remastered for unprecedented listening quality" worth examining. Starting the comparison with the Skip James, Son House, Tommy Johnson and Ishmon Bracey reissues on Document, the recordings here have fewer clicks and pops, and a lower level of residual surface noise. Compared to the fuller sounding (but noisier) Yazoo reissues of Skip James, JSP still emerge well ahead on points. In fact the quality of their remastering on sides like James' Devil Got My Woman or Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues is so good it is difficult to believe you are listening to Paramount recordings. The Son House Library of Congress recordings have a similar sound to the version on Travelin' Man CD 02, but the intrusive crackling on those transfers has been removed. When it comes to the Bukka White disc however, JSP's claim is harder to sustain. The studio sessions have decent enough sound, if lacking the crispness of the long deleted Catfish set, but there must have been a problem in sourcing the two field recordings Sic 'Em Dogs On and Po' Boy. The sound on these tracks is poor, whereas a good condition copy of the 78 was available to Catfish, and to Document when preparing Mississippi Blues and Gospel (DOCD 5320). (Document have subsequently issued all the Bukka White sides on DOCD 5679.) Despite the problem with these two sides, JSP have done another great service in producing a set of this quality. In this series they are trying to extend the market for some wonderful music, and if this shows in some of the packaging and booklet notes as it does here we should not be too critical. (At least full discographical information is included, which is more than some reissue companies are able to manage.) If you already have this material, this set offers four CDs of sound quality upgrades at a bargain price - if you haven't, treat yourself to some of the most inspired and moving blues ever recorded. (DPR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Night Train 7018 New Orleans Twist Party ● CD $14.98
16 tracks, 39 min., recommended
Available again. A solid party/dance collection if ever there was one, this compilation of 45's originally recorded for RIP Records in 1959-1962 by Professor Longhair, Reggie Hall, Eddie Bo, and Bobby Mitchell radiates energy as only New Orleans music can. The sound quality, clearly dubbed from slightly scratchy, bass-heavy vinyl, does leave a bit to be desired, but the music is still too good to miss. Among the shufflin' tunes are Whole Lotta Twistin' and Everybody's Blowin' (parts 1 and 2) by Professor Longhair, Always Pickin' on Me and The Joke by Hall, You're the Only One and Let's Limbo by Bo, and You've Got the Nerve and Walking in Circles by Mitchell. Nice music to celebrate the end of the work week with. No liner notes at all, but a great caricature of two twisters on the cover. (DH)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Rounder 11605 Zydeco - The Essential Collection ● CD $15.98
17 tracks, 76 minutes, very good
Some will comically ask if there is such a thing as an "essential" Zydeco collection while supporters of the Louisiana tradition will know for sure. There's plenty of playing time here and some downright, good time dancing music with Geno Delofose, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha Chas, Stanley Dural's Buckwheat Zydeco band, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and Boozoo Chavis. The much-maligned accordian is front and center with more from Bruce Daigrepont, John Delefose, Little Brian and the Zydeco Travelers, as well as Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' making this a thoroughly enjoyable set, but without Clifton Chenier, it's not quite complete, or essential. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Sanctuary 81312 The Devil's Music ● CD $16.98
3 CDs, 49 tracks, 181 minutes, highly recommended
At the beginning of 1976, a small four-man crew and Giles Oakley set off from the UK to travel the deep South, Chicago and New York, to work exclusively on a documentary that became a five-part series which aired on BBC television as The Devil's Music. This 3-CD set stands as proof of how valuable Oakley's work was. Disc one includes fascinating songs by Sam Chatmon (Stop And Listen/ Sam's Rag/ Who's Gonna Love You Tonight), Big Joe Williams (Highway 49/ Watergate Blues), and Bukka White (Aberdeen, Mississippi), as well as juke performers like Sonny Blake, Joe Willie Wilkins (Mr. Downchild is superb), and Houston Stackhouse with a fine version of the tried-and-true Mean Red Spider, then continues with Fenton Robinson and Billy Boy Arnold laying down some effective rocking Chicago style blues. Disc two contains fine outings by Good Rockin' Charles, Little Brother Montgomery, and Henry Townsend, but James Deshay is startling on a half-dozen, especially his gripping version of Crossroads, worth the price of admission for its blazing juke-joint guitar. Disc three collects eleven 'live' performances from the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival with Memphis Slim taking four slots, Sonny Boy Williamson gets five (and he's masterful on each), and Matt "Guitar" Murphy has two blistering instrumentals, including a great Taking Off. Sound quality runs from good to superb (a few of the juke-joint recordings are a somewhat muddy) and Neil Slaven's liner notes are well-done and informative. The eight-page booklet has some great photos but recording details are scant and need to be extracted from the notes. Considering almost all of the performers on this set are now gone, it does them justice by showing how vital and strong they were during these periods. A wonderful match to this would be the BBC digging out the series and transferring it to DVD... let's hope this happens! (CR)

 
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)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS The Sirens 5005 Primitive Piano ● CD $15.98
15 tracks, 53 minutes, essential. Reissue of Tone LP originally issued in 1957 with seven bonus unissued tracks. Honest-to-goodness piano blues seems to be either a lost or vanishing art. While Mitch Woods, Gene Taylor, Honey Piazza, Marcia Ball and others are highly respected for their contributions, it's not often you'll hear them beating on an old upright piano, unaccompanied. A scant few come to mind including Barrelhouse Chuck and Erwin Helfer who can be counted on to carry the torch of authentic piano blues. Speckled Red is perhaps the more recognized player here, although hardly a household name, but his three cuts, Dad's Piece/ Early In The Morning, and Oh Red sparkle. Doug Suggs is featured on Doug's Jump and the rolling Sweet Patootie as well as two recently discovered tracks, Smoke Like Lightning and the aptly titled Slow And Low. James "Bat the Hummingbird" Robinson may be the least talked about blues pianist ever heard, but his Bat's Blues and the seven-minute Four O' Clock are solid and grinding nonetheless. Also newly discovered are a handful by Billie Pierce, Keep A Knockin' with fine two-fisted pounding, the slow See See Rider and Florida Blues, plus two takes of Bye And Bye with Dede Pierce joining in on vocals. Sound is wonderful from beginning to end. Simply remarkable material.(CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Varese 66473 Sun Records - 25 Rare Sun Blues Classics ● CD $17.98
25 tracks, 67 minutes, essential
Joe Hill Louis has kicked off the party on the two previous Sun compilations on Varese and he takes the lead again on Keep Your Arms Around Me with plenty of rasping harp. Sam Phillips seems to have recorded just about anyone who entered his small studio on Union Ave. in Memphis, including rural artists like Sleepy John Estes, whose Policy Man Blues is superb. Woodrow Adams gets the nod as perhaps the most chaotic performer with The Last Time accompanied by Sylvester Hayes' tough harp and Fiddlin' Joe Martin's thumping drums, and Willie Nix delivers Prison Bound Blues. Earl Hooker's Blue Guitar and Move On Down The Line are here as well as Hot Shot Love's harmonica tour-de-force, Wolf Call Boogie. Houston Stokes, Walter Horton, Honeyboy Edwards and others also appear. Crushing guitar on Little Milton's Lookin' For My Baby and Billy Love's Hart's Bread Boogie make it worth the price. Sound quality is excellent throughout, and to their credit, Varese has now made 75 tracks of the Sun blues catalog readily available again. (CR)
WOODROW ADAMS: The Last Time/ HOUSTON BOINES: Carry My Business On/ HONEYBOY EDWARDS: Sweet Home Chicago/ BILLY "THE KID" EMERSON: Little Fine Healthy Thing/ SLEEPY JOHN ESTES: Policy Man Blues/ FRANK FROST: Just Come On Home/ ROSCO GORDON: Hey Hey Girl/ PAT HARE: Bonus Pay/ RAYMOND HILL: I‘m Back Pretty Baby/ EARL HOOKER: Blue Guitar/ Move On Down The Line/ WALTER HORTON: In The Mood/ JIMMY AND WALTER: Before Long/ LITTLE JUNIOR’S BLUE FLAMES: Feelin‘ Bad/ Sittin‘ Drinkin‘ And Thinkin‘/ LITTLE MILTON: Lookin‘ For My Baby/ JOE HILL LOUIS: Keep Your Arms Around Me/ BILLY LOVE: Hart‘s Bread Boogie/ HOT SHOT LOVE: Wolf Call Boogie/ WILLIE NIX: Prison Bound Blues/ ELVEN PARR’S IN THE GROOVE BOYS WITH EDDIE SNO: I‘m A Good Man/ HOUSTON STOKES: We‘re All Gonna Do Some Wrong/ RUFUS THOMAS JR.: Married Woman/ MOSE VINSON: 44 Blues/ ALBERT WILLIAMS: Rhumba Chillen

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Vestapol DVD 13049 Devil Got My Woman - Blues At Newport ● CD $23.98
DVD 14 songs, 60 mins, essential
Now on DVD. God almighty - talk about a supersession! At the 1966 Newport Folk Festival Alan Lomax recreated a Southern juke joint at the rooming house where several of the musicians were staying and invited some of the bluesmen who were at that years festival perform. The result is a series of loose, informal performances that what they occasionally lack in technical prowess is more than compensated by the atmosphere. We get to see some of the only footage available of the unique Skip James performing three songs including his most famous Devil Got My Woman. Bukka White shows that country blues was not just for listening and a number of people get up and dance to his irresistable rhythms including a tipsy Son House who later on goads Howling Wolf while he is getting ready to perform his three songs with his band. Son's own performance is a typically ferocious and moving Forever On My Mind and the video includes three fine performances by the less well known but excellent spiritual singer Rev. Pearly Brown. The camera roves around among the performers and their friends and capture the spirit of the occasion as a rare piece of "cinema verite" and the closest most of will ever come to the juke joint experience. Buy two copies - one for yourself and one as a present to someone who loves the blues - they'll thank you for it. Truly pricless! (FS)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS West Virginia University Press 4 Work & Pray - Historical Negro Spirituals & Work Songs ● CD $15.98
Fascinating collection of field recordings collected between 1949 and 1953 by Cortez B. Reece - a professor at Bluefield State College in West Virginia. Includes railroad work chants, spirituals, hammer songs, slave-era songs and more. Includes 24 page booklet with photos and notes on the performances.

 

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