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NEWSLETTER #131
Blues & Gospel
Big Maybelle ->
Jimmy "T-99" Nelson
 

 


STAGOLEE SHOT BILLY by Cecil Brown ● CD $29.95
296 pages, hardbound - counts as 5 CDs for shipping purposes. Recommended. A very interesting, if sometimes overly academic look at the beginnings of one of the more noted songs in the annals of African-American music, be it blues, folk blues, country blues, and more. Cecil Brown delivers a very detailed and well researched piece of work that not only uncovers more about the song than perhaps any of us knew before, but also manages to paint an interesting picture of life itself, and comes to some rather remarkable conclusions about politics, prostitution, and much more along the way. The bibliographic references take up more than 20 of the book's pages, but in turn offers insight into just how far reaching the author's research was, not to mention that it might spark enough interest for readers to delve into additional books. While it might not be a favorite among light readers or those with a passing interest in blues, it is a fascinating study for those who relish the roots of African-American music, or blues, in particular. (CR)

 
MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS THE BLUES edited by Peter Guralnick, Robert Santelli & Others ● CD $27.95
288 pages, hardbound - counts as 8 CDs for shipping purposes. Very good. Chances are, if you liked the Scorsese/PBS series of blues films, the book will be even more enjoyable as it does go further into detail than what most saw on television. One of the major attractions to the book are the numerous quotes interspersed throughout from noted musicians (some in the blues field, others outside) as well as the various reprints of articles from Zora Neale Hurston, Stanley Booth, Ralph Ellison, Alan Lomax, and Samuel Charters. Along with those, Elmore Leonard, Robert Gordon, David Halberstam, Peter Wolf, Jeff Todd Titon, and many others have also contributed to the book by discussing the importance of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Robert Johnson, varied styles of blues, and much more. If you weren't too keen on the films by seven different directors, you might see a saving grace in the book's pages with the additional information that wasn't part of the series. Certainly not essential for the scholarly blues crowd, but it does make for good reading, and collectors are bound to see it as a valuable entry to their shelves. (CR)

 
NAPPY BROWN Savoy 17074 Night Time Is The Right Time ● CD $33.98
Available again with a new number. Two CD set featuring all the Savoy recordings made by this fine blues shouter and soul music pioneer in the 50s and early 60s - 36 in all. A mixture of straight blues, blues ballads and rocking R&B. Nappy's distinctive voice is accompanied by top New York session musicians - Sam Taylor/ ts, Al Sears/ ts, Mickey Baker/ g, Sam Price/ p, Panama Francis/ d and others. Selections include his big hit Don't Be Angry, his version of the old blues standard Night Time Is The Right Time/ That Man, the rock-a-ballad I Wonder, the blues track Two Faced Woman, the pop-sounding and self-penned Land I Love, the jump tune Open Up That Door, the tortured I Want to Live and lots more.

 
JIMMY BURNS Delmark 770 Back To The Delta ● CD $16.98
16 tracks, 67 minutes, excellent While maybe a little less known than his brother, Eddie "Guitar" Burns, Jimmy is no less a talent playing guitar or belting out strong vocals and this set of blues takes him back closer to his roots. While the guitar effect on the title track isn't necessary, it isn't overly intrusive, and throughout the remainder of the disc, he shores up his reputation with great originals as well as covering Muddy's I Feel Like Going Home, Sleepy John Estes' Someday Baby, and Wolf's How Many More Years. His slide guitar is acidic and greasy while his single string work runs the gamut from precise and sharp to ragged and dirty. The small band support keeps the heat on high and Burns delivers from start to finish. (CR)

 
DAVE CLARK'S BLUES SWINGERS Delmark 768 Switchin' In The Kitchen ● CD $14.98
15 tracks, 60 minutes, excellent It's a shame there aren't more recordings this potent in a modern sense while maintaining an ear for past traditions. Jump, swing, rollicking R&B, shadings of jazz, and touches of deep fried blues lace this superb offering. Floyd McDaniel was aboard for about half the set adding exceptional guitar and top-shelf vocals on Caldonia/ How Long Blues/ Cold Cold Feeling, and others, but it's on West Side Baby that the gloves come off. With baritone, tenor, and alto sax, plus piano and an eight-cylinder rhythm section of bass and drums, there's plenty of fuel whether rolling through High Stakes Woman, or the varied instrumentals. Jason Schrock acquits himself well in the vocal department for three cuts. Downright infectious. (CR)

 
ROBERT CRAY Hightone 8164 Heritage Of The Blues - Phone Booth ● CD $11.98
12 tracks, 48 minutes, good
Some might question whether or not Robert Cray is deserving of a compilation in HighTone's 'Heritage of the Blues' series, but there's little doubt that he was far closer to a blues artist on his first few records than he is now. If there's one thing immediately apparent, it's the relatively absent production values in his early catalog. The title track lumbers along in the mud and mire, and for Porch Light/ Bad Influence, and Payin' For It Now, the similarities show Cray might have been typecast far too early when one hears the grit and solid blues feel of The Grinder/ Playin' In The Dirt, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson's Don't Touch Me, grooves he steers clear of now. There's nothing here in the way of previously unissued tracks, and aside from strong guitar and good vocals, the middle-of-the-road material doesn't do much today. (CR)

 
ARTHUR "BIG BOY" CRUDUP RCA 55155 Rock Me Mama ● CD $13.98
22 tracks, 64 mins, highly recommended. An excellent overview of the career of this brilliant, popular and influential performer featuring 22 songs recorded for Bluebird and RCA between 1941 and '54. Crudup was a lovely singer with a distinctive high and very expressive voice. Although a somewhat limited guitarist his accompaniments are highly appropriate to the songs - he is usually accompanied by string bass or drums and sometimes both and the last track features him accompanied by a small R&B band. As a songwriter he was outstanding with interesting lyrics and infectious melodies. Songs like Mean Ol' Frisco/ Rock Me Mama/ Keep Your Arms Around Me/ So Glad You're Mine/ My Baby Left Me & I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole (all here) have become blues standards and among others were a big influences on the young Elvis Presley. Other songs includes Cool Disposition/ Black Pony Blues/ Give Me A 32-20/ Chicago Blues/ Dust My Broom (very differnt to the Elmore James version)/ Hoodoo Lady Blues/ Nobody Wants Me, etc. Sound quality is outstanding and there are full discographical details and informative notes by Colin Escott. There are half a dozen duplications with RCA 61043 issued about ten years ago. (FS)

 
KIRK FLETCHER Crosscut CCR 11076 Shades Of Blue ● CD $17.98
14 tracks, 59 minutes, Highly recommended
Although Kirk "Eli" Fletcher isn't a household name in blues circles yet, his credibility as a blues guitarist is unquestionable. He's old school all the way and respects the traditional approach, something sadly missing from most players his age. Joined here by Kim Wilson, who supplies killer harp and vocals on Bad Boy and My Home Is A Prison (incredibly lowdown), plus a few others, Finis Tasby jumps in on Welfare Blues/ Worried Man Blues, and more, and Janiva Magness also handles a few sounding great. With sideman assistance from the likes Richard Innes, Ronnie James Weber, and Jeff Turmes, the heat is on high and Fletcher is masterful without showboating. From down-home grit to uptown jump, modern blues doesn't get much better than this! (CR)

 
JOHN LEE HOOKER Savoy 17078 Detroit, 1948-1949 ● CD $15.98
20 tracks, 66 mins, highly recommended
Available again. More fantastic early John Lee Hooker from the birth of his career when everything he did was worth listening and some of it being among the greatest of blues creations. New research reveals that the first 12 sides represent his second recording session cut in November 1948 for his manager Elmer Barbee (not Joe Von Battle as originally thought) very soon after the session when he recorded his big hit Boogie Chillun. These were sold to Savoy who issued two singles using the pseudonyms Delta John and Birmingham Sam. Eight further sides were sold to Savoy a few months later - four featuring Hooker solo playing acoustic guitar and four from what is his first session with a group featuring James Watkins on piano and Curtis Foster on drums who like many to follow had a hard time following Hooker's timing and the result is charming chaos if not exactly great music! But the first 16 tracks are prime Hooker and vital additions to any collection of recordings by one of the all time great bluesmen. (FS)

 
HOWLIN' WOLF Acrobat 4010 Rockin' The Blues - Live In Germany ● CD $12.98
9 tracks, 45 mins, very good
Recorded live in Bremen, Germany in November, 1964 with Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon & Clifton James - enjoyable performances though not among Wolf's most exciting and the sound is not exceptional but a rare chance to hear this great artist live and it includes a couple of songs Wolf had not recorded elsewhere. Includes Shake It For Me/ Dust My Broom/ Rockin' The Blues/ Going Down Slow/ Forty-Four, etc. (FS)

 
HOWLIN' WOLF BMG DVD 56631 The Howlin' Wolf Story ● CD $17.98
DVD 90 minutes plus bonus, color & black & white, highly recommended
Though not a masterpiece this is certainly a most welcome tribute to one of the greatest bluesmen of the postwar era. His life story is traced through interviews with his biographer Mark Hoffman, his sisters, former band members like his brilliant long time guitarist Hubert Sumlin, Jody Williams, Sam Lay and others plus commentary from people who knew or worked with him like Billy Boy Arnold, Sam Phillips, Dick Shurman, the insufferable Marshall Chess, Hubert Sumlin's wife and others. In spite of his ferocious and sometime lewd on stage conduct we learn that he was devoted husband and father and a shrewed businessman. He regretted never being able to reconcile with his mother who had ignored his existence after he started playing the "devil's music" and even refused to come to see him when he was dying. There are some great clips of him performing in the 60s though much it is currently available elsewhere. It's too bad they weren't able to lay hands on some of the less familiar live performances though it's truly fascinating and delightful to see some of the silent home movies shot by drummer Sam Lay showing Wolf performing and clowning around in black clubs in the ealy 60s. The are several bonus features including more of Sam Lay's home movies, a series of interviews on the subject of Wolf's rivalry with Muddy Waters and a live radio broadcast from 1973 of Little Red Rooster. (FS)

 
FRUTELAND JACKSON Eletro-Fi 3380 Blues 2.0 ● CD $15.98
13 tracks, 61 minutes, highly recommended
The self-penned title track is enough to draw almost anyone into the web of blues with its infectious chain-gang chant and the simple backing of a bass drum and a refrain vocals, while Bo Carter's My Pencil Won't Write No More and Tommy Johnson's Big Road Blues get delicious treatment. The remainder of the set is made up of Jackson originals, Laura Marie with its broken groove, the Delta fog of Long Distance Love Affair, and the rippling Moon Man Rag plus more. Special guest Mel Brown offers guitar on I Can Still Rock And Roll and Sometimes Bad Man Blues while he delivers piano on one. A fine outing and worthy of wide attention. (CR)

 
SKIP JAMES Shout Factory 30245 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Skip James ● CD $13.98
16 tracks, 59 minutes, recommended Although Skip James was from the Mississippi Delta, not far as the crow flies from where Son House and others were from, James' music remains a world apart from that of his neighbors and contemporaries. The Delta bred rough-edged guitarists who possessed gravel voices, but Skip sang in a high falsetto style and played intricate guitar patterns that seem against the grain of those around him. His piano playing was another matter entirely with a sense of timing that's as fun as it is confusing. Most of this disc's recordings are from Skip's comeback period following his mammoth performance at Newport in 1964, but time hadn't changed the beauty or simple complexity of his music when he first recorded in 1931. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues and Cypress Grove Blues are worth the price of admission alone. Timeless beauty. (CR)
SKIP JAMES: 22-20 Blues/ Cherry Ball Blues/ Crow Jane/ Cypress Grove Blues/ Devil Got My Woman/ Everybody's Leaving Here/ Hard Time Killing Floor Blues/ How Long Blue/ I Don't Want A Woman To Stay Up All Night Long/ Illinois Blues/ I‘m So Glad/ Little Cow Little Calf Is Gonna Die/ Sick Bed Blues/ Skip's Worried Blues/ Special Rider Blues/ Vicksburg Blues

 
JIMMY JOHNSON Dreyfus Jazz 37021 I'm A Jockey ● CD $10.98
Reissue of 1996 album by this superb Chicago singer & guitarist which was his first in almost ten years. A mix of original songs and covers with a fine band and guest appearances by Billy Branch/ harmonica and Lucky Peterson/ keyboards & guitar.

 
CHRIS THOMAS KING 21 Century Blues 2107 The Roots - The Soul Of Chris Thomas King ● CD $13.98
All acoustic album with 19 tracks from this talented performer is half original songs (John Law Burned Down The Liquor Store/ Watermelon Man/ Sinking Feeling/ Martha's Blues, etc) and half covers of classic blues and gospel from the 20s and 30s (Hard Time Killing Floor/ Come On In My Kitchen/ If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day/ Canned Heat Blues/ Midnight Special, etc0.

 
FREDDIE KING Vestapol DVD 13072 Live At The Sugarbowl ● CD $23.98
Now on DVD. Rare footage featuring a complete set by Freddie and his band recorded at the Sugarbowl in South Carolina is 1972. DVD has four bonus tracks recorded in 1970 at a Los Angeles television studio.

 
J.B. LENOIR MCA 6170 Martin Scorsese Presents J.B. Lenoir ● CD $11.98
Thanks to the recent PBS documentary series J.B. Lenoir is getting some much deserved attention and this fine collection features 15 tracks recorded for Chess, Parrot and Checker between 1951 and '58 including two of his most famous songs Eisenhower Blues and Mama Talk To You Daughter as well as Give Me One More Shot/ Don't Dog Your Woman/ If You Love Me/ Mama, What About Your Daughter/ Five Years/ Voodoo Boogie and others.
J.B. LENOIR: Don't Dog Your Woman/ Don't Touch My Head/ Eisenhower Blues/ Five Years/ Give Me One More Shot/ Good Looking Woman/ If You Love Me/ Korea Blues/ Low Down Dirty Shame/ Mama Talk To Your Daughter/ Mama, What About Your Daughter/ Natural Man/ Sitting Down Thinking/ Voodoo Boogie/ When I Am Drinking

 
J.B. LENOIR V.I. Music 450598 The Parrot Sessions - Expanded Edition ● CD $14.98
13 tracks, 36 minutes, recommended
 Unfortunately, J.B. was never a major artist, although his catalog contains many solid outings. While far too short, a baker's dozen from the Parrot vaults show a fine songwriter, good guitarist, and a vocalist whose high-pitched warble was far different from the Chicago norm. Supplemented by twin-saxes and a rhythm section, Lenoir pilots through some rough waters but the outcome is stellar. The rough guitar break in I'm Gonna Die Someday is priceless, and if that's not enough, J.B.'s repetitive solo in Mama Talk To Your Daughter will be. Al Galvin's bizarro-world drumming on One More Shot opposes the standard Chicago backbeat when he accents in reverse, corrects his off-kilter approach for a bit, and then reverts to playing backwards! Eisenhower Blues and I'm In Korea stand well alongside What Have I Done/ Fine Girls/ Sittin Down Thinkin' and more. This is the same as Relic 7020 with a bonus alternate take of Eisenhower Blues (CR)

 
FURRY LEWIS Shout Factory 30248 Heroes Of The Blues - The Very Best Of Furry Lewis ● CD $13.98
16 tracks, 62 minutes, recommended
While Furry Lewis gained far more exposure than most of his contemporaries with an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, a film with Burt Reynolds, and an interview in Playboy magazine, he lived no better a life than his friends, working as a Memphis street sweeper to feed his family. His recordings (in a perfect world) should have brought him millions due to his wonderful slide guitar style and natural vocals, but like many others, his comeback period helped him considerably only to see him leave this world destitute. The first three tracks stem from Furry's late-1920s sessions for RCA Victor while the remainder come from Aldelphi, Biograph, and Fantasy recordings in the 1960s. A few have Lee Baker, Jr. assisting. Masterful. (CR)
FURRY LEWIS: Baby That's All Right/ Baby You Don't Want Me/ Cannon Ball Blues/ Furry's Blues/ I'm Going To Brownsville/ If You Follow Me Babe/ John Henry/ Judge Boushé/ Judge Harsh Blues/ Long Tall Gal Blues/ Natural Born Eastman/ Shake 'em On Down/ St. Louis Blues/ Take Your Time/ When I Lay My Burden Down/ Why Don't You Come Home Blues

 
MEMPHIS MINNIE JSP JSPCD 7716 Queen Of The Country Blues ● CD $28.98
5 CDs, 124 tracks, essential
JSP's latest box set features the bulk of the pre war work of one of the blues world's most colourful and influential characters. When she was not using her guitar to beat up anyone who crossed her, Minnie was an accomplished musician, a talented songwriter and superb all round entertainer whose forthright contralto perfectly matched her material. The "All The Published Sides" tag here though is pretty meaningless, since JSP have followed the convention used by discographers of excluding those titles where her playing partner and second husband Joe McCoy took the lead vocal. This means that compared to the corresponding reissues of her early work on Document (DOCD 5028 - 31) some 20 titles are missing, 15 of which are titles where Minnie provides guitar accompaniment. Joe McCoy was certainly a less interesting vocalist than Minnie, but the loss of tracks like When The Levee Breaks and Pile Drivin' Blues is disappointing, if understandable in terms of space limitations. (On the other hand alternate takes missing from the original Document series are included.) It also seems odd to end this compilation in 1937 - Minnie's pre war recordings continued until 1941 - but JSP are planning a second set which will cover the rest of her career. In all other respects this is a very satisfying reissue, supported by excellent notes from Neil Slaven.
The first two discs include versions of Bumble Bee, the hit which launched Minnie's career, the famous duets with Joe McCoy which feature some of Minnie's best guitar picking, and the charm and humour of songs like Plymouth Rock Blues which draw on her early experiences of rural life. The third disc sees the last duet with Joe, great solo efforts such as Chickasaw Train Blues, and a different aspect to Minnie's lyric writing skills as she conjures a vivid picture of desperate isolation in Outdoor Blues. By the period covered by the fourth disc (1935) Minnie, like Big Bill Broonzy, had simplified her guitar style to accommodate a greater emphasis on rhythm and "swing", and was recording regularly with a bass and piano accompaniment. Two engaging tributes to the boxing champion Joe Louis include some lovely piano from Black Bob on Joe Louis Strut, while New Orleans Stop Time, a duet with Bumble Bee Slim, is also very enjoyable. The small band format also does result in some less memorable sides however, and the addition of a trumpet player on the fifth disc doesn't really help. As if to demonstrate that Minnie was at her best with more limited accompaniment, two outstanding sessions at the beginning of the final disc find her in top form and producing classics such as Hoodoo Lady. The sound quality of Memphis Minnie reissues has generally been good, but this set probably represents the best all round remastering effort to date. Corresponding tracks match the excellent "Hoodoo Lady" compilation on Columbia (CK 46775), while elsewhere sound is equally good or better than other reissues, so that for example the occasional crackles on the Document/ Blues Document transfers have been removed. Another essential collection. (DPR)

 
JOHNNY B. MOORE Delmark 769 Rockin' In The Same Old Boat ● CD $16.98
13 tracks, 68 minutes, highly recommended
Johnny B. Moore started garnering attention in Chicago for his blistering guitar while he maintained journeyman status playing behind others. He's now got a few solo projects under his belt, but none better than this. He storms through a thundering version of Buster Benton's Lonesome For A Dime as the lead-off track and doesn't let up one bit whether plowing through Cut You A Loose/ Lookin' Good/ Big Boss Man/ I'm A King Bee, or Baby Please Don't Go, and his own Broke Man proves his songwriting talents are in focus. There's an urgency in both his vocals and guitar attack which are steeped in the strong West Side tradition. Since his stroke some months ago, Moore has steadily been gaining strength and hopefully he should be back to playing soon. (CR)

 
BLIND MISSISSIPPI MORRIS Boogie Barbecue 9999 Bad To Worse ● CD $15.98
13 tracks, 55 minutes, recommended
Stripped down, raw, and in-your-face blues is the theme here. Morris Cummings is a stellar harp player and a disastrous singer capable of scraping paint from walls and cracking the plaster underneath. If you thought they didn't come this intense, you're in for a treat as soon as this one starts. Mostly riveting originals with a small band in tow, Morris blows his way through the title track, settles into a well-oiled groove for Gimme Gimme, and slows to a crawl for Hurry Sundown, while Willie Dixon's Built For Comfort gets a solid reading. Brad Webb delivers spot-on guitar while additional support comes from piano, organ, and a romping rhythm section. The harp work is thick as smoke, and as a vocalist, Morris pulls out the stops and proves his mettle. (CR)

 
JIMMY "T-99" NELSON Ace CDCHD 976 Cry Hard Luck - The RPM And Kent Recordings, 1951-1961 ● CD $18.98
23 tracks, 63 mins, highly recommended
Fine collection of sides recorded for RPM by Texas blues shouter Nelson, some with his regular band The Peter Rabbit Trio and others with various studio line ups. It includes his one minor hit - the classic T-99 - along with other fine tracks like Cry Hard Luck/ Meet Me With Your Black Dress On/ Raindrop Blues/ Bad Habit Blues/ Sweetest Little Girl/ Fine Little Honey Dripper , etc. A number of tracks were never issued on 78 rpm and were first issued on Ace LPs in the 1980s and a couple have never been issued before. As usual for Ace the sound quality is superb and the 12 page booklet has iinformative notes by Tony Rounce plus vintage photos and label shots. (FS)

 

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