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  NEWSLETTER #132
Blues & Gospel
Eric Bibb ->
Rod Piazza
 

BOOKS
ERIC BIBB/ RORY BLOCK/ MARIA MULDAUR
CLIFTON CHENIER
RORY BLOCK
R.L. BURNSIDE
 
DRINK SMALL
JAMES HARMAN
SLIM HARPO
WYNONIE HARRIS

B.B. KING
ROD PIAZZA & THE MIGHTY FLYERS
 

 
ESCAPING THE DELTA ROBERT JOHNSON AND THE INVENTION OF THE BLUES by Elijah Wald ● CD $24.95
Hardbound, 342 pages, highly recommended. Counts as five CDs for shipping purposes. Following his acclaimed career history and biography of Josh White in "Society Blues" from 2002, the author returns for an in-depth look at Robert Johnson. It's doubtful that any serious blues aficionado would refute the simple fact that Robert, his legend, his history, and his mysteriousness have been covered ad nauseum. With that in mind, Wald went to work with a different purpose, and in turn, offers many new twists with a completely different spin that many might not have considered previously. While most will be aware of Johnson's reputation in the pre-war Delta Blues canon as a player of great skill, singer of deep passion, and writer of extraordinary capabilities, Wald went to incredible lengths to detail how Johnson might not have been the ideal definition of a "bluesman," at least, not as most would interpret or define a "bluesman." We've heard over time that Johnson was just as likely to pull off a popular song of the day by some Caucasian crooner, just as surely as he was apt to put his own spin on a Son House composition. But Wald goes deeper and ends offering a book that will start painfully slow for many yet pick up to incredible heights. While the beginning will seem plod along, it's because Wald has done great amounts of research in order to point out just how influenced black artists were by white music. Examples are long and deep, but in the end, Wald's points are brought into new light as he investigates and uncovers Johnson's music and compares it against music by white players and singers, and by many of Johnson's contemporaries; Son House, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Peetie Wheatstraw, among them. Especially interesting is the breakdown of Johnson's complete 29 song catalog, with alternative takes, and just where to find the best and closest comparable examples. While it crosses into territory that will be uncomfortable for some and unimaginable for others, Wald manages to hand in a work of great depth and passion. (CR) Special offer - get both book and CD together for $38.98.

 
DOWN IN HOUSTON   by Roger Wood (Photography by James Fraher) ● CD $34.95
346 pages, hardbound, counts as 14 CDs for shipping. Lavish new book devoted to the blues scene in Houston, Texas from the immediate post war era to the present day based on research and interviews with musicians, vlub owners, producers and more. Covers well known artists like Lightnin' Hopkins, Clifton Chenier, Johnny Copeland and Gatemouth Brown as well as the many lesser known practitioners of the art like Little Joe Washington, Big Robert Smith, Ashton Savoy, Gloria Edwards, Leo Morris and others. It is copiously illustrated with many beautiful photos taken by award winning photographer James Fraher.

 
CLIFTON CHENIER Arhoolie DVD 401 The King Of Zydeco ● CD $19.98
DVD, color, 13 tracks, 55 mins, essential
Wonderful collection of live performances from the once and always King Of Zydeco. Half the tracks were filmed at the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival featuring Clifton with a fine band including brother Cleveland on washboard, son C.J. on tenor sax, guitarist Sherman Robertson and others. There are several performances from the 1977 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with his best ever band with Cleveland, tenor sax player John Hart, keyboardist Buckwheat, guitarist Paul Senegal and more. There are several tracks from Louisiana television including one show with the band all wearing crowns! Interspersed with the music are interview segments with Clifton talking about his music. The music is consistently superb and gives a taste of just how much excitement Clifton could generate in a live performance. Not to be missed. (FS)

 
ERIC BIBB/ RORY BLOCK/ MARIA MULDAUR Telarc 83588 Sisters And Brothers ● CD $16.98
13 tracks, 53 minutes, excellent
Combining the talents of these three has definitely proven a smart move. Each deliver soulful vocals while Bibb and Block handle the guitar chores. The small rhythm section of Mudcat Ward on upright and Per Hanson on drums with piano from Chris Burns stays out of the way adding a relaxed swing to the proceedings. There's an overall feel of spiritual connection as the title suggests and they handle everything with fine results. Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down is superb with rich background vocals and Tommy Johnson's Maggie Campbell is very nicely done. A mixture of originals and traditional titles, all finely crafted and delivered with passion but the track listing is completely out of whack and irritating. (CR)

 
RORY BLOCK Telarc 83593 Last Fair Deal ● CD $16.98
14 tracks, 51 minutes, excellent
It'd be a hard chore to find another woman with the level of musicianship, writing ability, passion for tradition, and inherent soul than Rory Block. Her slide guitar playing has long had many shaking their heads at her slashing licks and debt to masters like Son House, Robert Johnson and many others. There's simply no low point here with gritty to beautiful bottleneck work everywhere, and nothing but that with Block's voice is a wonderful combination. Son House's County Farm Blues, Robert Johnson's Last Fair Deal Gone Down or Traveling Riverside Blues, as well as traditional titles like Amazing Grace and Look What The Lord Has Done mix well and offer a nice variety. (CR)

 
R.L. BURNSIDE Fat Possum 80365 The First Recordings ● CD $15.98
14 tracks, 38 mins, highly recommended
Fabulous collection featuring most of the recordings made by this brilliant Mississippi bluesman for George Mitchell in 1968 - his first recordings featuring many of the songs that would later become staples of his repertoire. Many of these tracks have been out before on Arhoolie, Revival and Swingmaster but it's really nice to have them all together including previously unissued recordings. R.L's material draws on traditional blues, down home blues recordings from the 50s as well as a few originals. He's a powerful and expressive singer and his acoustic guitar playing is solid and his music often generates a hypnotic groove that was to endear him to his many young fans in later years. (FS)

 
 
DRINK SMALL Southland SCD 1 I Know My Blues Are Different - Cause I'm The One Who ● CD $13.98
Reissue of 1972 LP featuring South Carolina country bluesman Drink Small. He's a fine singer with a deep dark voice and all the material is original. Unfortunately his guitar playing makes most of this rough going since he is frequently out of tune and hits a lot of bad notes. The first track Bowlegged Woman is excellent and shows that with a bit more rehearsing this could have been an excellent album but, as it stands, I find it hard to recommend.

 
JAMES HARMAN Pacific Blues 2304 Lonesome Moon Trance ● CD $16.98
12 tracks, 55 minutes, highly recommended
It's about time James "Ice-Pick" Harman wound up with another home for his decidedly brilliant blues offerings. What sets Harman apart from his contemporaries is his incredible wit and writing sense while covering every human condition we deal with on a daily basis. Add to that some of the best harp work around, a voice as delirious as his lyrics, and an approach that pairs a multitude of musicians with the songs that fit best, and you're bound to have some of the best blues available. This all-original dozen includes wicked assistance from Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, Kirk "Eli" Fletcher, Gene Taylor, Stephen Hodges, Steve Mugalian, and others. Now, if Pacific Blues will complete the failed promises of others and finish releasing Harman's marvelous "Extra Napkins" sessions... (CR)

 
SLIM HARPO Hip-O 0583 The Excello Singles Anthology ● CD $24.98
Swamp blues at its finest. This two CD set with 44 tracks features both sides of every single issued by Slim Harpo on Excello between 1957 and 1971. Lots of classics - I'm A King Bee/ Strange Love/ Buzz Me Babe/ What A Dream/ Rainin' In My Heart/ I Need Money (Keep Your Alibis)/ We're Two Of A Kind/ Harpo's Blues/ Baby Scratch My Back/ Shake Your Hips/ Tip On In, Parts 1 & 2/ Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu/ I Just Can't Leave You/ Folsom Prison Blues/ The Price Is Too High/ Jody Man and lots more.

 
WYNONIE HARRIS Collectables 2872 Good Rockin' Tonight - Very Best Of Wynonie Harris ● CD $15.98
Great 25 track collection featuring 25 of Wynonie's best and most popular King sides from the late 40s and early/mid 50s. All his King hits and more Good Rockin' Tonight/ Grandma Plays The Numbers/ I Feel That Old Age Coming On/ All She Do Is Rock/ I Like My Baby's Pudding/ Good Morning Judge/ Bloodshot Eyes/ My Playful Baby's Gone/ Bad News baby (There'll Be No Rockin' Tonight)/ Don't take That Whiskey Away From Me/ Christina/ Wine Wine Sweet Wine/ Mr. Dollar, etc. Remastered from original tapes by Little Walter Devenne and compiled and annotated by Victor Pearlin.

 
B.B. KING Ace CDCHM 986 The Soul Of B.B. King ● CD $13.98
The fourth volume in Ace's ongoing mid-priced series based on B.B.'s original Crown LPs with bonus tracks, This was his 12th and final Crown LP - originally issued as "B.B. King" in 1963 and subsequently retitled "The Soul Of B.B. King". The original 10 track LP which included Going Home/ Youn Never Know/ Come Back Baby/ Sundown/ Boogie Rock and five more is joined by 8 bonus tracks including three unreissued Kent singles and two previously unreleased cuts.
B.B. KING: A Woman Don't Care (bonus Track)/ Come Back Baby (can't We Talk It Over)/ Don't Let It Shock You (bonus Track)/ Dust My Broom (bonus Track)/ Eyesight To The Blind (bonus Track)/ Going Home/ Green And Lucky Blues (bonus Track)/ He Road I Travel Aka Hard Luck Blues (bonus Track)/ House Rocker Aka Boogie Rock/ Just A Dream (bonus Track)/ Love, Honor And Obey (bonus Track)/ Please Remember Me/ Shake Yours/ Sundown/ The Letter/ You Never Know/ You Shouldn't Have Left/ You Won't Listen

 
ROD PIAZZA & THE MIGHTY FLYERS Tone Cool 1161 Modern Master - The Best Of Rod Piazza ● CD $16.98
2 CDs, 29 tracks, 140 minutes, recommended With Rod Piazza's career going for better than thirty-five years, it's high time some of his best work was documented. Fans of the West Coast harp slinger might differ on what was included and what was not, but the set is strong throughout. From Piazza's earliest days with the Dirty Blues Band, to his side-by-side efforts with George "Harmonica" Smith in Bacon Fat, the Chicago Flying Saucer Band (which predated) the Mighty Flyers' work with Shakey Jake, Pee Wee Crayton and Jimmy Rogers, Piazza's harp and vocals are front and center, but there's plenty of fine piano, guitar, and rhythmic support. Licensing difficulties left Rod and the band's work for the Black Top label absent, and the collections spans 1968 to 2001 (not 2003), but there's plenty to like. (CR)

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