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NEWSLETTER #136
Blues & Gospel
Big Bill Broonzy ->
Charlie Musselwhite
 

 

NEW DVDS

 
NOTE: Unless otherwise noted all DVDs offered are in NTSC format which means that they will not play on a European DVD players unless you have a multiple format player.
 
MANCE LIPSCOMB Vestapol 13011 In Concert ● CD $22.98
The great Texas songster in a live performances recorded for TV station KLRU in 1969. 16 songs including So Different Blues/ Going Down Slow/ Alcohol Blues/ Silver City/ Key To The Highway/ Mama Don't Allow/ Baby, You Don't Have To Go/ Motherless Children and more. 58 minutes in color.

 
OTIS RUSH Blues Express 4002 Live - Part One ● CD $23.98
Color, approximately 60 minutes, highly recommended
Recorded in December of 1999 at Broadway Studios in San Francisco before an appreciative crowd, the left-handed guitar master is in potent form for a half-dozen cuts - I Wonder Why/ All Your Love (I Miss Loving)/ It's My Own Fault/ 717/ I Can't Quit You Baby/ I Got My Mojo Working. In his mid-sixties at the time of the taping, Rush is brilliantly powerful backed by a horn section and rhythm guitar, as well as bass, drums, and keyboard. Rush's voice has lost none of its edge and his guitar playing retains the forceful, ringing quality so immediately familiar. Although somewhat short it is listed as volume one so we can hope there will be more. Bonus features include an interview portion with talk of influences, working with Willie Dixon, and information on a lengthy career peppered with shoddy deals, shelved recordings, and chances that might have been. A bonus picture gallery shows Otis flanked by high-profile rockers; Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and others, but there's a recurring theme as Rush talks of the players. While each one seems to have offered to record the West Side icon, there's a distinct sadness as he recounts the offers while seeing nothing come of them. Otis Rush does have a fairly extensive recording history, but it's unfortunate that bad luck and sour deals have followed him. All in all, Otis Rush - Live is a highly worthwhile addition to shelves already starting to bulge from the many fine releases in the recent past. Extensive liner notes from Dick Shurman are finely crafted and informative. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hip-O 2714 Gunsmoke Blues ● CD $14.98
Color, approximately 90 minutes, recommended
With the number of blues DVD issues hitting the shelves recently, fans could almost see the music in an upswing as we've been blessed with plenty of previously-unreleased footage. Hip-O seems to be leading the current charge and "Gunsmoke Blues" is another winner with Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, George "Harmonica" Smith, and Muddy Waters. November of 1971 saw Link Wyler and the film crew of the television series, Gunsmoke, heading North to Oregon to aim cameras at blues icons instead of their usual work on a popular western series. Backed by what appears to be Bacon Fat (minus Rod Piazza), Thornton dishes out Early One Morning and her riveting Ball And Chain before giving up the stage to George Smith who tears through Juke and Leaving Chicago in potent form, and although apologetic for his performance, his features blister. Turner is relatively solid as he belts out Hide And Seek plus Shake Rattle And Roll before the climax of Muddy's four songs with his own band. Mannish Boy/ Long Distance Call/ Hoochie Coochie Man and Got My Mojo Working have been previously-released, but viewers should be pleased with the better quality here. The main portion closes out with a finale and the bonus footage includes further interview segments and additional material from Thornton (Rock Me Baby/ Hound Dog) and Waters (She's Nineteen Years Old/ Walking Through The Park), plus a few audio-only tracks. With blues fanatics being the eternal optimist type, J.B. Hutto on stage during the finale leaves hope that Hip-O has even more in the vaults. A worthwhile addition to any blues collection. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Hybrid DVD 20016 A Tribute To Muddy Waters - King Of The Blues ● CD $13.98
90 minutes, very good
Hosted by Billy Dee Williams, this presentation consists of reworkings of a fair array of Muddy's songs by a good cast of artists, although it does seem somewhat pale in comparison to Muddy's own work. Those who graced the Kennedy Center stage in honor of Muddy back in October of 1997 are impressive - Big Bill Morganfield, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Mem Shannon, Nick Gravenites, Charlie Musselwhite, Robert Lockwood, and others, but tribute projects often tend to lose subtle nuances in translation. The house band is led by the capable G.E. Smith, but there's also a somewhat antiseptic quality to the backing, and why Bob Margolin (who played with Muddy for years) is only on stage for a few songs is rather odd, as he would seemingly have a better grasp on the more intricate points of Muddy's music. A good number of the performances are potent while a few seem slightly out-of-place; Peter Wolf, John Hiatt, and Phoebe Snow. The song selection is some of the cream Muddy managed over his career; I'm Ready/ Hoochie Coochie Man/ She's 19 Years Old/ Long Distance Call, and more. Bonus footage is a strong 1968 performance of Got My Mojo Working plus an audio CD now included with the DVD. Overall, "A Tribute To Muddy Waters - King Of The Blues" has its musical high points and is worthwhile considering the low suggested retail price, however, for a clearer picture of Muddy's historic importance and influence, "I Can't Be Satisfied" on DVD is a stronger choice. (CR)

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS Vestapol 13095 Chicago Blues ● CD $22.98
50 mins, color, highly recommended
Now on DVD. A 1970 movie by English filmmaker Harley Cokliss featuring music by Chicago bluesmakers and a look at the life and environment of African-Americans in the Chicago out of which blues comes. Includes music by Muddy Waters, Johnnie Lewis (wonderful country blues), Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Floyd Jones (a beautiful acoustic version of his Stockyard Blues), and J.B. Hutto. Includes interviews with most of the performers as well as political and community figures in Chicago and some moving visuals of black life in Chicago. Occasionally a little pompous and pretentious, it is, nevertheless an interesting,entertaining and very rewarding documentary. (FS)

 
MUDDY WATERS Wellspring 73167 Can't Be Satisfied ● CD $14.98
DVD, color and B&W, approximately 60 minutes, highly recommended
Previously shown on PBS television, Robert Gordon, author of Muddy's biography of the same name co-produced and co-directed this compelling documentary of the man still regarded as the King of Chicago Blues. With rare performance footage, interview segments, and remembrances from such luminaries as Jimmie Lee Robinson, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt, and Keith Richards, among others (family and band members), Muddy's life and majestic influence are captured in sometimes brutal honesty. Whether looked at as a habitual womanizer, a baseball-loving couch potato, or a master bluesman who took his earthshattering skills around the world, Muddy comes into clear focus from beginning to end. If there is one minor complaint to be lodged against something this finely crafted, it's that none of the performances are shown full-length, but thankfully, there are available DVDs that rectify that slight miscalculation. Now available in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, "Can't Be Satisfied" is a superb companion to Gordon's well-researched tome, and the heartfelt approach so readily apparent here, particularly the memories of Jimmie Lee Robinson, prove that although Muddy was no saint, he was respected, loved, and looked up to by many. (CR)

 
JIMMY WITHERSPOON Silverline 288137 The Blues, The Whole Blues & Nothin' But The Blues ● CD $17.98
12 tracks, recommended
DVD AUDIO Produced by Mike Vernon and recorded in early 1992, this stands as one of Jimmy Witherspoon's more solid outings from late in his career. Vocally strong (although you can hear the start of his throat problems occasionally) and accompanied by a sympathetic band (piano, guitar, drums, and horns), 'Spoon smoothly runs through a strong and mixed set of straight-ahead blues, some jazz, and a bit of Southern Soul delivering the goods on all cylinders. The 5.1 surround sound is exquisite and definitely worth attention. Jimmy McCracklin's Would Man Be Satisfied and Think, Chris Youlden's You Got A Hold Of My Heart/ Killing Time, and You Ain't Foolin' Me, plus seven more make this a highly worthwhile purchase. Mike Vernon's (screen viewable) liner notes are highly informative, but one wonders why when a product like this is reissued, the liner notes aren't updated to reflect more recent developments, as in Jimmy's passing in 1997. (CR)

 
 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
BIG BILL BROONZY Silverline 288138 The 1959 London Session ● CD $17.98
10 tracks, highly recommended
DVD AUDIO Big Bill Broonzy should need little introduction to those familiar with American roots music as he's long been recognized in blues, jazz, and folk idioms. These London Sessions were recorded in October of 1955, and now available in 5.1 surround sound, are a treat to the ears. Broonzy was no stranger in Europe as he was there a few times prior to this date and perhaps can be looked at as the reason the AFBF brought so many American blues artists to foreign shores. Here, joined by a small band, Big Bill (sadly written as Bib Bill in the opening segment of viewable liner notes), rolls through a smart set including It Feels So Good/ Southbound Train/ St. Louis Blues/ Southern Saga/ Joe Turner Blues, and Partnership Woman (among others). Although this disc will play on all DVD devices, the only way to hear it correctly is on a home theater system which definitely gives a sense of having been there. If there's one minor gripe to the packaging it's that the 'special features' listed on the reverse tray card boast liner notes. Many collectors and/or researchers might be put off that the notes are only of the viewable sort. Had these and session details been included as a booklet, they would be much easier to refer to. All in all though, a thoroughly satisfying aural delight. (CR)

 
CHARLES BROWN Rounder 2074 A Life In Blues ● CD $24.98
CD/ DVD combination. The CD features a live concert at The Lone Star Roadhouse with Charles accompanied by a trio including regular guitarist Danny Caron on 10 songs including I Stepped In Quicksand/ I Cried Last Night/ Seven Long Days/ When The Sun Comes Out/ Please Come Home For Christmas, etc. The DVD features a video of the concert plus two short films made in 1944 for Soundies by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers when Charles was 22 years old. It also includes video interviews, a photo gallery including many previously unpublished and a complete career discography.

 
CLIFTON CHENIER Maison De Blues 982 246 Frenchin' The Boogie ● CD $15.98
14 tracks, 43 min., recommended
Originally released in 1976, this aptly titled album features Chenier's tight septet (including Lon Price on sax, Paul Senegal on guitar, and now-famous Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural on keyboardss) snuggling up to classic blues and R&B. Those unfamiliar with the song Le Blues De La Vache A Lait might just recognize it in translation as Milk Cow Blues. Shake Rattle And Roll/ Everyday I Have The Blues/ I Got A Woman/ Let The Good Times Roll and others get the zydeco treatment. Sometimes Chenier sings 'em in French (as he does on Chuck Berry's Don't You Lie To Me), sometimes he adds French lyrics. But what are you gonna do, these artistic types never do what they're supposed to. Good thing too. This new CD features a bonus cut - a version of Chuck Berry's I Want To Be Your Driver. (JC)

 
CORTELIA CLARK Collector's Choice 487 Blues In The Street ● CD $13.98
12 tracks, recommended
Reissue of intriguing 1966 RCA album that actually won the folk music Grammy that year though it never sold and is now a rare collector's item. Clark was one of the vanishing breed of African-American street singers who collected money from passers by from his music and selling shopping bags. His recording was cut "live" on the street by Felton Jarvis who later went on to produce Elvis and includes Clark talking as well as singing and playing. Clark was a limited performer though an engaging one and like most street singers his repertoire covered various genres including traditional and original blues and folk songs as well popular songs including a version of Bye Bye Love that The Everly Brothers probably wouldn't recognise! Since Jarvis didn't think the original recordings were "authentic" enough he overdubbed additional car noises to improve the "authenticity". These additional sounds are very annoying but are confined to the left channel so you can cut them out if you wish but I'm puzzled why Collector's Choice didn't just issue it without the "enhancements". Clark was certainly not a major discovery but worth a listen and Colin Escott's interesting new notes give us a lot of insight into these recordings and the sad fate that ultimately befell this improbable Grammy winner. (FS)

 
DETROIT JUNIOR DEmark 777 Blues On The Internet ● CD $14.98
New recordings of this veteran singer and piano player including several new compositions by Junior. He's backed by guitarists Lurrie Bell, Maurice John Vaughn, Jimmy Dawkins, Willie Davis, bassist Bob Stroger, drummer Kenny Smith and horn players Eric Schneider and Sonny Cohn. This is an enhanced CD which when played in a computer features a video of Junior performing Key To The Highway along with a short interview.

 
THE FOUR KNIGHTS Heritage HT CD 49 1945-1950 ● CD $16.98
30 tracks, 72 mins, recommended
Fine collection of quartet singing that started as The Southland Jubilee Quartet and were renamed The Four Knights in 1945 by Cy Langois who was responsible for recording most of the sides here for Lang Worth Radio Transcriptions. Like other groups of the period the group switched between Jubilee style gospel and popular and jive material. Includes acapella performances, performances with guitar accompaniments and some with small groups plus one track with accompaniment by the Andy Kirk Orchestra. Lots of old favorites - includes Gospel Train/ Darktown Strutters Ball/ He Said He'd Calm The Ocean/ Does Jesus Care?/ It's A Good Day/ When They Ring Dem Golden Bells For You And Me/ Georgia On My Mind/ Latch!/ Ain't Gwine To Study War No More/ Lead Me To That Rock, etc. Excellent sound and eight page booklet with detailed notes by Opal Louis Nations. (FS)

 
ROSCO GORDON Dualtone 1158 No Dark In America ● CD $14.98
15 tracks, 60 minutes, recommended
While the warmly-written liner notes offer a nice look at Rosco Gordon, the man, there's little included in the way of explanation as to when this was recorded (sometime between 1997 and his death in 2002), where it was recorded (8 studios and Rosco's home are listed without mention of dates), or what was over-dubbed. The plethora of musicians (17 in all) offer fine support, and Gordon himself is superb playing guitar on three cuts and solo piano on a few tracks, even the out-of-tune You Look Bad When You're Naked. As advanced as he was in age and with failing health in later years, he is distinctly powerful and creative in what turns out to be some of his last recordings. The title track and re-recorded version of That's What You Do To Me alone make it worthwhile. The music, smile, and humor of this unheralded genius are missed. (CR)

 
LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS Empire 450634 Blowin' The Fuses ● CD $14.98
20 tracks, 78 minutes, excellent
Picking out worthwhile recordings by Lightnin' is like shooting fish in a barrel - it's as easy as looking through a variety of titles choosing one randomly - you'll find off-the-cuff lyrics, brilliant guitar, and a voice which reminds you of an old friend. This collection features mid-period Hopkins recorded between 1959 and 1965, and evenly balanced between solo and small-band tracks. Good Times/ Goin' To Dallas/ Fugitive Blues/ Goin' Back Home/ Keep Movin' On/ Don't Wake Me/Mojo Hand/ Little Wail/ Shaggy Dog find Lightnin' with bass and drums, with two cuts featuring trombone. Gonna Pull A Party/ Baby/ Backwater Blues/ Trouble In Mind/ That Gamblin' Life/ Get Off My Toe/ In The Evening/ 75 Highway/ Short Haired Woman/ Santa Fe find Hopkins alone, although Baby has Luke "Long Gone" Miles helping out. Solid and entertaining. (CR)

 
IVORY JOE HUNTER Collectables 2881 The King Sides, Volume 1 ● CD $15.98
25 tracks recorded for King between 1947 and 1949 including a number of R&B hits.

 
J.B. HUTTO Delmark 778 Stompin' At Mother Blues ● CD $14.98
This CD features 12 tracks recorded live at Mother Blues Club in Chicago in 1966 and all except for one track are previously unissued. In addition there are three unissued songs and several alternate takes of tracks from the 1972 session that produced his "Slidewinder" LP.

 
ETTA JAMES RCA 60644 Blues To The Bone ● CD $17.98
12 tracks, 48 minutes, excellent
Although Etta's voice has lost quite a bit of the power it was once capable of, this new disc serves well in showing she can still cut through a band and make worthwhile recordings. This one's a bonus for blues lovers with storming versions of Hush Hush/ Lil' Red Rooster/ Smokestack Lightning/ You Shook Me/ Driving Wheel, and a rippling Don't Start Me To Talkin' that sounds just as good with her as it did when Sonny Boy Williamson II cut it in 1955. Dust My Broom/ The Sky Is Crying/ That's Alright/ Crawlin' Kingsnake, and Honey Don't Tear My Clothes are also potent, but the opener, Got My Mojo Working isn't the romper it should be. Bobby Murray's guitar and John "Juke" Logan's harp are wonderfully supportive throughout. (CR)

 
LONNIE JOHNSON Proper BOX 81 The Original Guitar Wizard ● CD $24.98
Fantastic retrospective of the recordings of this brilliant and influential musician. Four CD set with 95 tracks featuring some of his best sides recorded between 1928 and 1952. In addition to recordings under his own name it includes accompaniments to Victoria Spivey, Texas Alexander and Clara Smith, duets with Eddie Lang and tracks as a member of Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, Duke Ellington's Orchestra and Blind Willie Dunn's Gin Bottle Four (with King Oliver, J.C. Johnson, Eddie Lang & Hoagy Carmichael!). Includes 44 page illustrated booklet with notes by Joop Visser and complete discographical details.
LONNIE JOHNSON: 6/88 Glide/ Another Woman Booked Out And Bound To Go/ Backwater Blues/ Beautiful But Dumb/ Bedbug Blues, Pt.2/ Blue Guitars/ Blue Room Blues/ Blues Stay Away From Me/ Broken Levee Blues/ Bulldog Moan/ Can't Sleep Any More/ Careless Love/ Crowing Rooster Blues/ Crowing Rooster Blues/ Deep Blue Sea Blues/ Deep Sea Blues/ Don't Wear It Out/ Falling Rain Blues/ Four Hands Are Better Than Two/ Garter Snake Blues/ Get Yourself Together/ Got The Blues For Murder Only/ Guitar Blues/ Have To Change Keys To Play These Blues/ He's A Jelly-roll Baker/ Hot Fingers/ Hotter Than That/ I Done Told You/ I Got The Best Jelly Roll In Town, Pts 1 & 2/ I Have To Do My Time/ I Just Can't Stand These Blues/ I'm Guilty/ I'm Just Dumb/ I'm Not Rough/ I'm Nuts About That Gal/ I'm So Tired Of Living All Alone/ In Love Again/ It Feels So Good, Pts 1 & 2/ It Was All In Vain/ Jersey Belle Blues/ Jet Black Blues/ Johnson's Trio Stomp/ Just Another Day/ Keep What You Got/ Lazy Woman Blues/ Let All Married Women Alone/ Life Saver Blues/ Little Rocking Chair/ Long Black Train/ Love Is The Answer/ Me And My Crazy Self/ Mean Old Bedbug Blues/ Misty Mornin'/ Mr. Johnson's Blues/ No More Troubles Now/ No More Women Blues/ Nothing But Trouble/ Playing Around/ Playing With The Strings/ Racketeers Blues/ Roaming Rambler Blues/ Savoy Blues/ She's Making Whoopee In Hell Tonight/ Sleepy Water Blues/ Southbound Water/ St. Louis Cyclone Blues/ Stay Out Of Walnut Street Alley/ Steady Grind/ Steppin' On The Blues/ Stompin' Em Along Now/ Sundown Blues/ Sweet Potato Blues/ Swing Out Rhythm/ That's Love/ The Dirty Dozen/ The Loveless Blues/ The New Fallin' Rain Blues/ The Victim Of Love/ To Do This You Got To Know How/ Tomorrow Night/ Toothache Blues, Pts 1 & 2/ Trouble Ain't Nothing But The Blues/ Two Tone Stomp/ Uncle Ned, Don't Use Your Head/ Watch Shorty/ What A Real Woman/ When You Feel Low Down/ Why Should I Cry/ Why Women Go Wrong/ Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers/ Working Man's Blues/ You Can't Buy Love/ You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now Pts 1 & 2/ You Only Want Me When You're Lonely/ You're Getting Old On Your Job

 
BETTY HALL JONES Blue Moon 6045 The Complete Recordings, 1947-1954 ● CD $14.98
22 tracks by this excellent Los Angeles based singer, stand up piano player and occasional. She is featured in the company of top West Coast musicians like Gene Phillips, Maxwell Davis, Bumps Myers, Tiny Webb, jake Porter and others. A fine mix of blues, ballads and up tempo rocking numbers.

 
JO ANN KELLY Blues Matters! 20041 Blues & Gospel - Rare & Unreleased Recordings ● CD $21.98
16 tracks, 59 mins, highly recommended
It's always a pleasure to get more rare and unissued sides from THE best British blues singer. It opens with four solo tracks recorded in Tony McPhees bedroom on a portable recorder in 1967 and originally issued on a limited edition E.P. Sound quality is a bit dodgy but Jo Ann is in fine form playing six and twelve string guitar on a selection of four fine sides including a particularly nice version of Robert Johnson's Milk Cow Blues. There are four fine sides from '68 including a great version of Son House's Walkin' Blues with fine slide work by Jo Ann and Howling Wolf's Just Like I Treat You with very effective piano work from Bob Hall. From 1970 is a lovely unissued solo performance of Sugar Babe (Ain't Got No Lovin' Now). There are four fine tracks from a live concert in 1977 with American guitarist Stefan Grossman including two where they are joined by guitarist Sammy Mitchell and the disc ends with two tracks from a 1984 live show with a largish group including a hot version of the Brenda Lee hit Sweet Nuthins. 12 page booklet includes interesting notes by Peter Moody plus rare photos including one taken at Bungies Club in London which is where I first saw Jo Ann in the 60s and was blown away by her utterly convincing renditions of Memphis Minnie songs and helped turn me into a confirmed blues addict for life! (FS)

 
B.B. KING Ace CDCHM 1034 More B.B. King ● CD $13.98
The seventh volume in Ace's ongoing mid-priced series based on B.B.'s original Crown LPs with bonus tracks. This one reissues Crown 5230 originally released in 1961 - a mixture of up tempo R&B, blues ballads and instrumentals - mostly drawn from Kent singles from around this time.

 
TAJ MAHAL Silverline 284579 Live At Ronnie Scott's ● CD $19.98
9 tracks, recommended
DVD AUDIO Recorded at the famed Ronnie Scott's Club in London of 1988, Taj Mahal is in strong form backed by a small band including Wayne Henderson's keyboards, as well as a rhythm section of bass, drums, and percussion. Big Blues finds Mahal sounding eerily like Howlin' Wolf (as he does a lot of the time), and he tears through Stagger Lee/ Mailbox Blues, Robert Johnson's Come On In My Kitchen, Blind Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues, and four others. The 5.1 surround sound is exceptional and the double-sided CD/DVD includes a video performance of Statesboro Blues plus a video interview, and computer extras that should fully satisfy anyone purchasing this newly packaged musical super set. (CR)

 
THE MANNISH BOYS Delta Groove 100 That Represent Man ● CD $15.98
17 tracks, 62 minutes, essential
It's this sort of recording that manages to keep the blues flame burning brightly for those who see our music suffering through a current low period. It's doubtful that a better hand-picked band could be chosen seeing as this one has Finis Tasby's vocals, the twin guitars of Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser, Leon Blue's piano, and a rhythm section of Ronnie James Weber and June Core. Add to that appearances by Paul Oscher, Roy Gaines, Johnny Dyer, Mickey Champion, and Randy Chortkoff and you've got the makings of an incredible hour-long blues extravaganza. Blues And Trouble/ You're Sweet/ I'm A Lover Not A Fighter/ Come On Rock Little Girl/ Temperature/ Partin' Time/ You Been Goofin'/ I Feel So Bad and nine more make this a late entry for one of 2004's high points. (CR)

 
MEMPHIS MINNIE JSP JSPCD 7741 Queen Of The Delta Blues, Volume 2 : 1937-1953 ● CD $28.98
5 CDs, 121 tracks, essential
Memphis Minnie Volume 1 (JSP 7716 - $28.98) was one of the best reissues of 2004, and this second set, covering the rest of the great singer guitarist's career, provides plenty more to enjoy. Compared to corresponding reissues on Wolf, JSP have restricted the sometimes numerous alternate takes of Minnie's later recordings, which makes the set a good deal easier to listen to. A less understandable omission is the exclusion of four songs she recorded for Chess in 1952 (they were reissued on Wolf WBCD -010). Sides where Minnie is supporting husband Ernest Lawlars (Little Son Joe) are included. The first disc picks up the story in 1937, by which time Minnie was recording with small groups which included talented pianist Blind John Davis. With titles like Keep On Sailing/ Keep On Eating and Keep On Walking, there is something of a production line feel to these early sides (although the first is a droll reworking of Bumble Bee Slim's Sail On, Sail On Blues), but they are lifted out of the ordinary by Minnie's fine singing and forceful personality, and nice touches like Charlie McCoy's mandolin. The next four sessions which make up disc two are among the high points of Minnie's career. Tracks like Nothing In Rambling/ Ma Rainey/ In My Girlish Days and of course Me and My Chauffeur Blues are rightly regarded as classics, but the overall standard is superb. Call The Fire Wagon is a delightful echo of her early guitar style, while the evocative Lonesome Shack Blues highlights Minnie's gift for projecting a fantasy - in this case having a shack to escape to from an abusive relationship. Disc three, which opens with Minnie's last pre war session, starts promisingly with I'm Not A Bad Girl, and includes Looking The World Over, a song she reputedly sung to win one of her famous blues contests against Big Bill.
The rest of this disc and the first session on disc four though represent a difficult transitional period. After a three year break from recording Minnie was trying to update her sound but the results were disappointing, with some mediocre material, an unbalanced sound on some sessions and Minnie's voice (a shade heavier and sounding almost like her husband's) straining against electric guitars or being worn out by repeated takes. Thankfully by her last 1946 session she is singing and playing much better, and new songs like Daybreak Blues from the following year represent an emphatic return to form. The final disc may give a flavour of Minnie's nightclub act, a mixture of popular songs and blues. The popular songs are not really suited to her style or personality, but the Chicago style blues are often very good, even if Sweet Man and Kidman Blues look back to Bumble Bee and Mr.Tango from 1930. World Of Trouble is also Minnie in top form, only the overcooked Night Watchman Blues jarring a little. The set ends with Little Son Joe, whose best moment was Black Rat Swing, trying to sound like Robert Nighthawk: a sign of the times. Minnie's last two private recordings from 1959 have never been found. Sound quality is generally very good with only a handful of tracks having any appreciable noise and even here listening is always comfortable. Compared to previous reissues sound is as good as on compilations from Columbia, Indigo and Charly, and the noisier tracks are better presented than on Blues Document. Neal Slaven again delivers some nicely judged and informative notes, having space to discuss the music as well as providing biography. Although Volume 2 is a little more uneven than its predecessor, it still contains a lot of wonderful, timeless performances. Listen to Volume 1 as well and you just might suspect that in her time Memphis Minnie made more outstanding records than any other blues singer. (DPR)

 
MEMPHIS SLIM Collectables 2892 Messin' Around With The Blues - The Very Best ● CD $15.98
Fine collection of 27 sides recorded in Chicago for Hy-Tone and Miracle between 1946 and 1948 including all his early R&B hits - Messin' Around/ Frisco Bay/ Blue And Lonesome/ Help Me Some and Angel Child. Fine vocals and piano from Slim with superb Chicago sidemen like Alex Atkins, Ernest Cotton, Big Crawford and others. Great music with decent sound though for a more comprehensive look at his 40s recordings you should check out the three volumes on Blues Collection (158 032, 159 862 and 160 142 - $11.98 each) which features all his 40s recordings in chronological order.

 
MEMPHIS SLIM & ROOSEVELT SYKES Maison De Blues 982 242 Double-Barreled Boogie ● CD $15.98
12 tracks plus conversation, 54 mins, highly recommended
What a delight! Two old friends and giants of blues piano sitting in a studio in Paris reminiscing about old times in the South and Chicago and playing some wonderful piano duets - some with vocals by Slim and some by Sykes as well as a couple of driving instrumentals. The music is wonderful - the two work really well together on a a selection of mostly their own tunes as well as St. Louis Jimmy's Going Down Slow and the conversation is full of wit and humor and some of the information might prove useful fodder to blues historians. This was originally issued on Barclay in 1970 and seems to have disappeared very quickly. This CD has a bonus track and includes notes by original producer Philippe Rault as well as transcriptions of the songs and conversations. A treasure! (FS)

 
MEMPHIS SLIM & BUDDY GUY Maison De Blues 982 274-3 Southside Reunion ● CD $15.98
10 tracks, 46 mins, highly recommended
Reissue of 1971 Barclay album with two bonus cuts. An excellent set of Chicago blues featuring singer/ pianist Memphis Slim accompanied by a solid band fronted by Buddy Guy with A.C. Reed appearaing on tenor sax on some cuts and Junior Wells providing some fine harp fills on others. The songs are mostly Slim originals along with a couple of blues standards and Buddy joins in on vocals on a couple of tracks as well as providing some tough guitar work. (FS)

 
MEMPHIS SLIM & CANNED HEAT Maison De Blues 982 274 Memphis Heat ● CD $15.98
Reissue of 1974 Barclay album where Slim is joined by Canned Heat and The Memphis Horns on songs like When I Were Young/ Black Cat Cross My Trail/ Down That Big Road/ Mother Earth/ Five Long Years and more. This reissue includes a bonus unissued tune and a previously unissued alternate take of Five Long Years.

 
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE Alligator 5612 Deluxe Edition ● CD $15.98
14 tracks, 62 minutes, excellent
With a recording and performance itinerary dating back forty years, Charlie Musselwhite's name and reputation are ranked very highly, and while some contemporaries from his era have long been gone, he remains focused and stands as an elder statesman. Compiled from three titles in the Alligator catalog, as well as featuring two previously unissued tracks; Lotsa Poppa and a somewhat ragged-but-right Newport News Blues from Musselwhite's personal collection (with Will Shade), Memphis Charlie gets formidable support from the Blind Boys Of Alabama, Junior Watson, Larry Taylor, and Steven Hodges, among others. Mean Ole Frisco/ Blues Got Me Again/ Mama Long Legs/ If I Should Have Bad Luck/ When It Rains It Pours, plus nine more. Solid and enjoyable. (CR)

 
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE Silverline 288134 Up And Down The Highway - Live 1986 ● CD $17.98
8 tracks, excellent
dvd audio Ol' Memphis Charlie is in good form on this low-key but somewhat romping affair recorded live in 1986. While his musical career has been one of ups and downs, he puts in strong a performance here backed only by Bob Hall's stellar piano and Dave Peabody's to-the-point blues guitar. Musselwhite's harp, as usual, is potent whether he's rocking up a storm on Hey Miss Bessie, grinding out a slow blues on Candy Kitchen, or funking it up a bit for Big Leg Woman (Short Mini Skirt). Big Walter Horton's Need My Baby gets a fine reading and the trio also simmers through Key To The Highway/ Everybody Needs Somebody/ Up And Down The Avenue, and Skinny Woman. Viewable liner notes are informative and give good insight into Charlie's lengthy time as one of blues' top harmonica showmen and the superb 5.1 surround sound puts you in the club with these guys. (CR)

 

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