Blues & Gospel - Newsletter 144 - Annisteen Allen -> Marvin Johnson + DVDS, Books, Calnedar
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Annisteen Allen ->
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BIG BOSS MAN The Life & Music Of Bluesman Jimmy Reed by Will Romano ● BOOK $17.95
Paper, 360 pages, counts as five CDs for shipping purposes
First full length study of one of the most popular and influential of all post war bluesmen. Based on extensive research including interviews with fellow musicians, family members and others whose lives were touched by Reed.

SAM MYERS The Blues Is My Story by Sam Myers & Jeff Horton ● BOOK $19.95
Paper, 172 pages, counts as three CDs for shipping
The life of blind Mississippi singer and harmonica player Sam Myers as told in his own words to Jeff Horton. He talks about his early life, his move to Chicago and about the many musicians he worked with including Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Lockwood. From the mid 80s on he worked extensively with Texas blues artist Anson Funderburgh and Funderburgh contributes a chapter with his recollections of working with Myers and their songwriting collaborations.

SHOUT, SISTER SHOUT The Untold Story Of Rock & Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe by Gayle F. Wald ● BOOK $24.95
Hardbound, 252 pages, counts as 5 CDs for shipping
Long awaited biography of the superb and influential gospel singer and guitarist singer and guitarist. Rosetta started her career as a blues singer and blues sensibilities infused her gospel music and her rocking music with it's dynamic guitar playing was at the roots of rock 'n' roll and an influence on artists like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes, Etta James and many others. Gayle Wald has extensively interviewed people who knew and worked with Rosetta for this biography.

JOHN HENRY The Untold Story Of An American Legend by Scott Reynolds Nelson ● BOOK $24.98
Hardback, 214 pgs, highly recommended, counts as four CDs for shipping
Was John Henry man or myth, or--more likely--a little bit of both? The author here thinks that the man was real and the myth one of the most important of the 20th century. This is a fascinating book that not only establishes a believable story for the real John Henry, but also examines the importance and uses of the myth from its inspiration, to early 20th century American musicians like W.C. Handy, to John Henry's iconographical use for labor and communist parties, his influence on comic book artists like Jack Kirby and his likely inspiration to modern super heroes as we know them. Scott Reynolds Nelson has indeed done a fine job here researching exhaustively and procuring a fantastic assortment of illustrations, pictures, paintings etc. inspired by the man and the myth. (JM)

B.B. KING TREASURES by B.B. King & Dick Waterman ● BOOK $39.95
Hardcover book, 160 pages, highly recommended, counts as 11 CDs for shipping
B.B. King may have slowed down his pace but he has yet to retire from the stage when he still has fans who want to see him perform, but by tapering his schedule he's had more time for other projects including The B.B. King Treasures, a wonderful book that finds him collaborating with Dick Waterman. Don't mistake this for another biography or autobiography, this is more than a little different than standard fare for a book devoted to a blues artist, but then again, B.B. isn't exactly standard fare himself. Released for King's eightieth birthday, the book's subtitle "Photos, Mementos & Music From B.B. King's Collection" is exactly that with B.B. discussing his life from birth to the present with stops everywhere in between. Along with his recollections and stories, the book includes a number of pull-out reproduction souvenirs including a concert booklet, backstage pass, tour itinerary, a handbill and postcard, a booklet from WDIA in Memphis where King got his start as a radio disc jockey, and other items of interest. A 60 minute CD is included with interview segments that find King talking about influences, guitar styles, his days hawking Pep-ti-kon and numerous other memories plus there are two previously unreleased tracks - Little Mama from 1962 and May I Have A Talk With You from 1971. A truly rewarding effort and an item that holds the interest of readers as they wade through the pictures and stories of a true blues icon. Exceptional! (CR)



VARIOUS ARTISTS Dust-To-Digital DVD 05 Desperate Man Blues ● DVD $22.98
Color & Black & White, 55 mins plus 125 mins of extras, highly recommended
Wonderful documentary on record collector Joe Bussard who has one of the finest collections in the world of blues, country and jazz from the 20s and early 30s. Joe's love for the music comes through very clearly in this documentary when he plays a rare 78 for the film crew his face breaks into a smile that lights up the room, he puffs furiously at his ever present cigar and bounces around to the music and plays air guitar with Charley Patton! Joe is a great raconteur telling engaging stories about his life and experiences collecting music and we see him go out to check out a stash of 78s which proves to be fruitless ("They're not old enough"). The documentary is copiously illustrated with photos, archival footage and, of course, lots of vintage music. The documentary is as much about the importance of preserving this timeless music as it is about Joe himself who is known for his generosity in sharing the music through his radio shows, cassettes that he makes for people all over the world and providing access to his collection to reissue labels. The voluminous bonus features on this DVD includes 40 minutes of outtakes from the documentary, including Joe showing how he cleans 78s and a clip of Son House singing Death Letter Blues. There's also a new documentary on Joe filmed this year, a photo gallery, an audio only selection featuring one of his radio shows and a selection of recordings featured in the movie. There's also an eight page booklet with notes by Bruce Elder and the film's director Edward Gillan. (FS)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Koch Vision 6380 Antone's Home Of The Blues - A Legend Every Night ● DVD $16.98
DVD, 99 min., highly recommended
Documentary that tells the story of Clifford Antone and his world famous blues club in Austin, Texas, which opened its doors in 1975. Virtually every living big-name blues performer (and many less famous) offers an anecdote or memory of the club. And when B.B. King praises you so highly and so sincerely, you must have done something right. In Antone's case, he nurtured the development of the blues by providing a venue and by getting so many blues icons on stage together and separately. Every important blues act walked the boards at his club. This film features performance footage by Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Albert Collins, Hubert Sumlin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vaughan, Kim Wilson, and others. Interview footage includes clips from Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, Billy Gibbons, and dozens of others, with plenty from Clifford Antone, himself. While discussing his youth and early love of music, Antone says, "if the people aren't dancin', you're not playin' music, brother." Well said. (JC)



CLASSIC BLUES ARTWORK FROM THE 1920S 2007 Calendar Blues Images 207 ● CALENDAR  $16.98
We still have a few left of the fourth of what is promised to be a series of 15 calendars using images discovered by collector John Tefteller. These are drawn from a cache of original artwork for advertisements printed in African-American newspapers in the late 20s and early 30s by the Paramount Record Company advertising their latest blues releases. This one features ads for records by Victoria Spivey (not a Paramount but a great image), Charley Patton, Ida Cox, The Beale Street Sheiks, Bumble Bee Slim, Ma Rainey and other. The calendar also includes sample song lyrics, brief biographies and birth and death dates for many blues artists. As if that wasn't enough the calendar comes with a bonus CD with 14 tracks - all 12 of the advertised releases plus four bonus sides including both sides of the recently unearthed fourth Paramount by Son House that was recently reissued by Yazoo and in the introduction to the calendar Tefteller reveals some more information about the source of this incredible and wonderful rarity. Also included are full color inserts to enable you to make your own Classic Blues Artwork CD with a jewel case (jewel case not included)
Calendar/ CD set counts as four CDs for shipping purposes.



ANNISTEEN ALLEN Rev-Ola CRBAND 8 Fujiyama Mama ● CD $15.98
28 tracks, 72mins, highly recommended
Fine collection of 28 sides by this big voiced R&B vocalist who started her career as vocalist with the Lucky MillInder band. The tracks here were recorded in New York between 1951 and '54 with various groups with top New York session men (Gene Redd, Lucky Thompson, Henry Glover, John Greer, MIckey Baker, etc) - several with vocal group The Five Keys. It includes her only hit Baby, I'm Doin' It which was an answer song to The Five Royales hit Baby Don't Do It and her most famous song, the rocking Fujiyama Mama which was covered by Wanda Jackson and became a rockabilly classic. The emphasis is on hard driving numbers with the occasional slower blues. 14 tracks were previously reissued on Classics 5096 but this is more than worth it for the other 14. Fine sound and usual high quality notes by Dave Penny. (FS)

B.B. & THE BLUES SHACKS Crosscut 11088 Live At Vier Linden ● CD $16.98
11 tracks, 61 minutes, recommended
Whether you label them retro blues, jump blues, or a modern R&B quintet from Germany hopelessly stuck in a timewarp, B.B. & The Blues Shacks command attention with individual talent across the board but it's the sum that makes them one of the finest aggregations playing vintage blues today. Andreas Arlt's guitar oozes brilliance on the opener Hot Shot Bop and brother Michael Arlt's harp playing is soaked in the swamps of Louisiana for She's Got Her Eyes On Me as much as Southside Chicago for Ain't A Home No More, and as a singer he's convincing and powerful. Piano, upright bass, and drumming push the rhythms tirelessly from start to finish no matter if it's a blistering swing number like Stompin' And Rollin' that blends smoothly into the slow blues Good Night's Sleep with more smoldering guitar. Recorded 'live' in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd. Superb and tight. (CR)

ETTA BAKER Music Maker 50 With Taj Mahal ● CD $15.98
19 tracks, 47 mins, highly recommended
19 instrumentals featuring the wonderful and influential North Carolina guitarist Etta Baker who was first recorded in 1956. Those recordings issued on "Instrumental Music Of The Southern Appalachians" was an inspiration to many aspiring blues guitarists. Etta didn't record again until the 1990s and this is her second album for Music Maker. The first 12 tracks feature solo performances as well as duets with Taj Mahal whose playing was greatly influenced by those early recordings of Etta. On Johnson Boys, Etta plays banjo and is joined on fiddle by Wayne Martin and on Comb Blues, Etta & Taj are joined by another fine North Carolina guitarist Algia Mae Hinton. The title comes from Taj singing a blues through comb and paper. The remaining tracks on the album features those classic 1956 recordings and, in addition to Etta's five magnificent guitar pieces, there are two banjo instrumentals from Mr. Boone Reed. A splendid collection. (FS)

D.C. BELLAMY Stackhouse 1913 Give Some Body To Somebody ● CD $15.98
13 tracks, 57 minutes, very good
The name D.C. Bellamy may not set off a multitude of blues alarms simply because he is an artist who shunned the spotlight during his time with half-brother Curtis Mayfield, as well as Betty Everett and others, but he's still deserving of attention. His influences range from the straight blues styles of Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters to soul and R&B and he's a powerful vocalist with a gift for a twist of a phrase making him an interesting songwriter and storyteller. Bellamy supplies his own guitar to more than half the disc with Walker Tippit shining on a few plus harp work from J.P. Drum is strong. Recorded at Blue Heaven Studios and produced by Jim O'Neal (neither needing much of introduction), Bellamy hands in a solid effort. (CR)

DENNIS BINDER Earwig 4952 Hole In That Jug ● CD $14.98
13 tracks, 47 mins, recommended
First recordings in more than 30 years by Mississippi born singer/ piano player Dennis "Long Man" Binder who started his recording career with an unissued session for Sun in 1952. Though 78 at the time of these recordings Dennis is in fine form accompanied by an excellent band on a selection of all original songs including the topical Terrorist On The Blues. Nothing fancy here just solid urban blues with a nod to the past. (FS)

HADDA BROOKS Ace CDCHM 1129 Femme Fatale ● CD $13.98
10 tracks, 34 min., highly recommended
A CD reproduction (part of Ace's "hip pocket editions") of Crown LP 5010 from 1957, a tiny version of the original, right down to the cardboard sleeve. Brooks is in excellent voice, sensitively and sparsely backed on quite blue jazz numbers such as How Do You Speak To An Angel, My Ideal, Take Me, Dream, My Romance, and others. The title seems somewhat inappropriate, as it did when the LP came out, as Brooks sounds emotionally (though never vocally) fragile. Just the ticket for those smoke-filled late nights when dejection and scotch have had their way with you, and you haven't had your way with anyone. (JC)

BIG BILL BROONZY JSP JSPCD 7767 Volume 3: The War And Postwar Years, 1940-1951 ● CD $28.98
The third volume documenting the recordings of this great and prolific bluesman complements JSP 7718 and 7750 ($28.98 each) features four CDs with 99 tracks recorded between June 1940 and December 1951 and contains all his commercial recordings from this period but leaves out the recordings made in France and England in 1951 presumably to concentrate on the recordings made for an African-American audience where he was still a popular performer. Big Bill is featured in the company of musicians like Washboard Sam, Blind John Davis, Ransom Knowling, Memphis Slim, Punch Miller, Don Byas, Big Maceo, "Sax" Mallard, Alfred Wallace, Ernest "Big" Crawford and others.
BIG BILL BROONZY: (I'm A) Wonderin' Man/ All By Myself/ Backwater Blues/ Bad Acting Woman/ Bad Luck Man/ Bed Time Blues/ Big Bill's Boogie/ Bill Bailey/ Blue Tail Fly/ Cell No. 13 Blues/ Conversation With The Blues/ Crawdad/ Doing The Best I Can/ Double Trouble/ Five Feet Seven/ Get Back/ Getting Older Every Day (Take 1)/ Getting Older Every Day (Take 2)/ Going Back To My Plow/ Green Grass Blues/ Hard Hearted Woman/ Hey Hey/ Hit The Right Lick/ Hollerin' The Blues/ Humble Blues/ I Can Fix It/ I Can't Write/ I Feel Like Crying/ I Feel So Good/ I Know She Will/ I Love My Whiskey/ I Stay Blue All The Time/ I Wonder/ I Wonder What's Wrong With Me/ I'll Never Dream Again/ I'm Having So Much Trouble/ I'm Woke Up Now/ In The Army Now/ In The Evenin'/ Iím Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town/ John Henry/ Just A Dream/ Just Rocking/ Keep Your Hand On Your Heart/ Keep Your Hands Off Her/ Keep Your Hands Off Her/ Key To The Highway/ Leavin' Day/ Lonesome Road Blues/ Looking Up At Down/ Make My Get Away/ Martha Blues/ Medicine Man Blues/ Merry Go Round Blues/ Midnight Steppers/ Midnight Steppers/ Mopper's Blues/ My Gal Is Gone/ My Little Flower/ Night Watchman Blues/ Oh Baby/ Old Man Blues/ Partnership Woman/ Please Believe Me/ Rambling Bill/ Rockin' Chair Blues/ Roll Dem Bones/ San Antonio Blues/ Saturday Evening Blues/ Serenade Blues/ She's Gone With The Wind/ Shine On, Shine On/ Shoo Blues/ South Bound Train/ Stop Lying Woman/ Stump Blues/ Summertime Blues/ Sweet Honey Bee/ Tell Me Baby/ Texas Tornado Blues/ That Number Of Mine/ Tomorrow/ Trouble In Mind/ Walkin' The Lonesome Road/ Water Coast Blues/ Wee Wee Hours/ What Can I Do/ What's Wrong With Me/ When I Been Drinking/ When I Get To Thinkin'/ Where The Blues Began/ Why Did You Do That To Me/ Why Should I Spend My Money/ Willie Mae Blues/ You Better Cut That Out/ You Changed/ You Got The Best Go/ You Got To Play Your Hand/ You've Been Mistreating Me

THE CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS Music Maker 076 Dona Got A Ramblin' Mind ● CD $15.98
14 tracks, 42 mins, highly recommended
Delightful collection of old time string band music performed by trio of young African-American musicians based in North Carolina. Black string band music is a form that has pretty much died out but this trio have revived it with skill, exuberance and a real sense of tradition. Between them they play banjo, fiddle, guitar, jug, harmonica and snare drum and they sing. They have been encouraged and guided in their efforts by veteran string band musician Joe Thompson. Their music draws on white and black traditions and is consistently entertaining. (FS)

DADDY MACK BLUES BAND Inside Sounds 529 Bluestones ● CD $15.98
Solid gritty small group blues by band from Memphis with two guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. Mack is not a particularly great singer but his guitar and the band create a solid groove though the attempts at doing a couple of soul numbers fall flat. Also includes a bonus video clip from the recording session.

BOOBOO DAVIS Black & Tan 029 Drew, Mississippi ● CD $16.98
10 tracks, 52 minutes, recommended
Pairing the talented singer/harpist Boo Boo Davis with Ramon Goose of NuBlues translates into a disc rooted deep in Mississippi with more than a touch of modern grooves and recording techniques, but for those thinking of the often bombastic Fat Possum approach, think again. The snarling vocals and backwoods harp from Davis with the jangling slide guitar work manage to keep the Mississippi landscape and its rich history as the focus with overdubs and sampling staying more in the background as opposed to being the disc's main interest. For many, mainstream blues has certainly become far too predictable with each passing year, but in the hands of Boo Boo Davis with Ramon Goose at his side, and a distinctly fresh outlook from both, this is a hands-down winner. Gritty, tough, and up-to-date this is one of the more rewarding discs of 2006. (CR)

FLOYD DIXON High John 1739 Fine! Fine! Thing! ● CD $13.98
12 tracks, 45 minutes, excellent
The recent passing of Floyd Dixon marked the death of a true pioneer who was around at the beginning and saw the West Coast develop as a major blues recording locale in the 1940s, thanks in part to Dixon's gems Call Operator 210 and Telephone Blues, plus the now-famous Hey Bartender. With a small band of bass, drums, and Hammond B3, plus Tony Matthews on guitar (along with a tight horn section on half the disc), Dixon's piano and songwriting skills were still sharp and intact on this outing. Missing is much of the smoothness Dixon's voice offered in his earlier years, but his songs were still laced with the wit and wisdom of his years. Candye Kane guests on Love's The Key and the gospel-flavored My Wish. (CR)

FLOYD DIXON High John 52062 Time Brings About A Change - A Floyd Dixon Celebration ● CD $13.98
17 tracks, 76 minutes, highly recommended
This disc's full title is "Times Bring About A Change - A Floyd Dixon Celebration" and a celebration it was (recorded shortly before Floyd's death in September 2006) laced with an all-star cast in support plus a few veterans. The band includes Kid Ramos on guitar with Larry Taylor and Richard Innes comprising the rhythm section (plus baritone and tenor sax with trumpet) as well as Kim Wilson dishing out his seemingly always-present tough harmonica backing Henry Gray (Henry's House Rocker/ Sweet Home Chicago/ Dust My Broom) and Pinetop Perkins (Down In Mississippi/ Come Back Baby/ Since I Lost My Baby). Dixon himself is present and in great form on Hole In The Wall/ Cold Cold Feeling/ I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town/ Call Operator 210, and five more. Recorded live at Phoenix's Rhythm Room in July of 2006 in front of an appreciative audience, this one hits on all cylinders. Superb. (CR)

RONNIE EARL Shout Factory 10061 Heart And Soul - The Best Of Ronnie Earl ● CD $13.98
15 tracks, 72 minutes, excellent
The career of Ronnie Earl (like many storied bluesmen) has been one of ups and downs with the guitarist having battled numerous demons and problems but his music has almost always been soulful - if at times focus-impaired. This collection gathers 15 strong cuts that range from Earl's initial outing on Black Top with the instrumental Ronnie Johnnie and Bobby Bland's I Smell Trouble to his latest Stony Plain effort with Duke Robillard for What Have I Done Wrong with many stops in between. Sugar Ray Norcia, Darrell Nulisch, Kim Wilson and Mighty Sam McClain tackle the vocal chores with the guitarist's prowess showing on the instrumental tracks Catfish Blues, Little Johnny Lee, Off The Hook and more. Some overlap with past compilations but far more up-to-date. (CR)

CLARENCE EDWARDS Last Call 7422508 I Looked Down That Railroad (Till My Eyes Got Red And ● CD $13.98
16 tracks, 65 mins, highly recommended
Not a new release but we've only just been able to get our hands on copies of this fine release. Louisiana performer Clarence Edwards was a terrific performer with a dark powerful voice and funky down home guitar style and his music recalls the heyday of Excello artists like Lightnin' Slim and Silas Hogan. This is a collection of live and studio performances with various small groups and while not quite up to the standard of his releases on Red Lightnin and Sidetrack is a fine collection of mostly covers given Clarence's very individualistic treatment. The opening track, a version of Bo Diddley's She's Fine, She's Mine is probably the highlight with a great vocal and a very effective insistent guitar riff. Other songs include Highway 61/ Don't Make Me Pay/ Ups & Downs/ I Just Want To make Love To You/ Someone Else Bin Steppin' in/ Scratch My Back (featuring a vocal by harmonica player Oscar Davis)/ I'm A man and more. (FS)

ANSON FUNDERBURGH & THE ROCKETS Shout Factory 10060 Blast Off - the Best Of Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets ● CD $13.98
17 tracks, 58 mins, excellent
This disc is actually more deserving of an "excellent with reservations" grade based on the tracklist as eleven cuts have been duplicated from an out-of-print (but still easily available) compilation of Anson Funderburgh's work. Anson's catalog isn't exactly small (although a fair portion of it is currently out-of-print) but Shout Factory fell far short of issuing a solid overview by including only one cut with Darrell Nulisch as The Rockets' vocalist (The Blues Seem To Follow Me) as he was present and in tough form on Funderburgh's first two long-players for Black Top. Sam Myers was certainly a top-notch singer/harp and a solid replacement (many would agree Myers went on to define the band), but ignoring Nulisch's talents as a harpist borders on criminal. "Blast Off" surely contains great blues with excellent singing, harp, and guitar work but the label failed miserably in its quest to offer a "best of" assortment due to an inexplicable narrow-minded approach. (CR)

EARL GAINES Blue Label 95782 Crankshaft Blues ● CD $16.98
12 tracks, 45 min., recommended
Gaines had a taste of fame as early as 1955 when he sang on the Louis Brooks song It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day) on Excello, a #3 hit on the national R&B charts. In the 1960s he has a hit and an LP on the HBR label (Hanna Barbera), a great "lost" soul album. In the early 1970s Gaines cut an LP for Deluxe, with little financial reward. He left music for 20 years, staged a comeback in 1989 and has been recording ever since. Recorded in the 1990s, this album features outtakes from Gaines' solo album on the Italian Appaloosa label (I Believe In Your Love, and for the Excello Legends album on Blue Moon, both deleted but worth finding. The remaining tracks (Baby Baby What's Wrong, and the title cut) come from a studio session cut in Nashville with The Roadrunners. On Someday Things Are Gonna Change, Gaines shares the mic with the song's author Roscoe Shelton. For an album of scraps and patches, it's pretty damn good. (JC)

MEMO GONZALES & THE BLUESCASTERS Crosscut 11092 Live In The U.K. ● CD $16.98
13 tracks, 62 minutes, excellent
If you like your blues with a little roadhouse edge Memo Gonzalez & The Bluescasters] should fit the bill. Gonzalez is a potent singer and harp player with a long list of credits, and while his band may not garner the accolades they deserve, it surely isn't from lack of effort or versatility. Kai Strauss' guitar work, whether the infrequently used baritone sort heard on I've Been Thinking or the soul-drenched Stratocaster-wielding in Greyhound, is delivered with as much taste as it is with reckless abandon. An engine-like rhythm section propels the beats showing versatility on Junior Parker's I Wanna Ramble and T-Bone Walker's Tell Me What's The Reason without a hitch and the originals sit comfortably with time-tested covers. Great stuff. (CR)

BUDDY GUY Silvertone 81967 Can't Quit The Blues ● CD $48.98
3 CDs, 47 tracks, 220 minutes / 1 DVD, 11 tracks, 90 minutes - excellent
Buddy Guy's recording itinerary now spans five full decades dating from his Baton Rouge demo, waxed in 1957, The Way You Been Treating Me (included), through a 2006 cut for a Sly & The Family Stone tribute (not included). This set's first disc hands in 18 tracks and spans his initial outing in '57 (and superb it is) through a handful of JSP dates as well as making stops that (all too shortly) focus on Buddy's time at Artistic, Chess, Delmark, Vanguard and Atco while the other two CDs amass 29 sides - all devoted to Guy's Silvertone sessions (1991-present). The DVD includes nine Montreux sessions (two from 1974 and another pairing from 1978 with the remainder going to 1992, 1998, and 2002) plus a pair from Seattle's Paramount Theatre in 2004. If anything, the set is short-sighted as it skims lightly over his first two-and-a-half decades when two-thirds of everything here focuses on the last 15 years. For those preferring the earlier (and less bombastic) days of Buddy Guy, it doesn't offer anything new (outside of the demo) although the previously unreleased DVD footage is strong. In booklet form with 40+ pages of liner notes including a timeline. Nicely packaged. (CR)

ODELL HARRIS Broke & Hungry Records 3002 Searching For Odell Harris ● CD $14.98
12 tracks, 40 min., almost highly recommended
Chances are better than good that, even if you're a blues fan, you've never heard of Odell Harris. Chances are even better you've never seen him play. Before producer Jeff Konkel recorded him one Mississippi night in July 2006, he wasn't sure the man really existed. Harris flakes out on shows and generally disappears for months at a time. This album finds Harris' guitar and vocals in a small combo setting, feels raw and dangerous, just the way it should. Harris covers Bo Diddley (Before You Accuse Me), Junior Parker (Train I Ride), Jimmy Reed (Can't Stand To See You Go, and others, runs traditional material and a couple of covers, but each time out he's got his own unvarnished sound. A useful reference point would be R. L. Burnside's early Fat Possum sides, with even less polish. And that's pretty good company to be in for a guy who can't always be bothered with singing into the microphone or playing an entire song all the way through. (JC)

JOHN LEE HOOKER Shout Factory 10198 Hooker ● CD $58.98
4 CDs, 86 tracks, 302 minutes - highly recommended
Spanning a full five decades from 1948 through 1998 marks this 4-CD boxed set devoted to the Boogie Man as one to add to the shelves. Disc one collects 26 tacks from '48 to '54 from such labels as Modern, King, Staff, Sensation and Regal (among others) while disc two and its 25 cuts cover '56 to '64 concentrating on Vee Jay titles as well as tracks recorded for Riverside, Savoy and a few sides cut for Henry Stone in Miami including the brilliant Don't Turn Me From Your Door. Disc three delivers 16 titles dating from 1966 through '86 and including a couple of Chess sides plus material from the Impulse, Bluesway, and Pausa imprints while the fourth and final CD covers 1987 though '98 and is made up of a wide-ranging cast of all-stars including Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughan, Warren Haynes and many others. The 60 page booklet features session details and extensive liner notes. (CR)

LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS Fuel 2000 61595 An Introduction To Lightnin' Hopkins ● CD $13.98
16 tracks, 63 mins, highly recommended
A fine collection of the greatest Texas country bluesman. About half the tracks here were recorded for Stan Lewis's Jewel label in the late 60s, some not originally issued. It includes the great two part Mr. Charlie and the then topical Vietnam Blues. Some of these tracks are solo with tough electric guitar and some are with a small group including his cousin Billy Bizor on harmonica. There are a couple of acoustic tracks from his 1959/60 Tradition recordings, the hot Lightnin's Boogie from a 1954 Herald session, a track from his 1964 session with Sonny & Brownie and Big Joe Williams, the great Santa (retitled Christmas Blues here) from his 1960 Fire session and three live tracks from various times including a very hot version of Mighty Crazy with exciting distorted guitar and rhythm section that I can't identify. Music is consistently superb though lack of any discographical info is frustrating. Bill Dahl provides his usual high quality notes though he has little to say about the specific recordings here. If you have little or no Lightnin' this would be a great place to start and if you have a large Lightnin' collection you might find one or two performances here you don't have. (FS)

LIL SON JACKSON Document DOCD 5680 Volume 1: 1948-1950 Rockin' And Rollin' ● CD $15.98
First of three discs to present the complete 40s and 50s recordings of this superb Texas country bluesman. This disc presents all 12 of his sides recorded for Houston's Gold Star Records in 1948 and 1949 and the first 11 sides recorded for Imperial in 1950.

MARVIN JOHNSON Blue Moon 6050 Jumpy Rhythm Jive - The Complete Recordings, 1946-1951 ● CD $17.98
23 tracks, recommended Marvin Johnson was a fine alto and tenor sax player and occasional vocalist who started his musical career in 1929 though these are the only recordings he made. Four of the sessions here were issued under his own name and includes some jump blues featuring vocals by Johnson, Calvin Boze or Joe Swift. The 1946 session with the Louis Jordan inspired Boze is particularly nice and includes a version of Safronia Bee - a song which he recorded under his own name several years later and became a big hit. There are also sessions accompanying mediocre vocalist Jesse Cryor and Bobby Pittman and one from 1949 behind the fascinating Brother Bones which includes his version of Sweet Georgia Brown which became the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters. These latter sides are also availble on Acrobat 4081 ($13.98) but most of the rest are new to CD. (FS)


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