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WOW. 4 CD’s. 103 tracks of protest in early American blues and gospel. Time period: 1910′s to the late 1930′s. We know the sound. No need to restate. So many artists, some well known and others obscure. Solos, choirs, groups, bands. But this is music of protest, some stated blatantly, others sung with humor, many layered with symbols and meaning to hide the target. These are songs, angry songs, desperate songs about abusive and oppressive conditions created and maintained by the white population relentlessly directed toward the black population. Despicable working conditions, police brutality, forced labor, prison horror. Continuous abuse and exploitation of one group of people by another. The variety of reactions to this oppression are as varied as the artists performing the songs. From thoughts of suicide to attacking and killing “Mr. Charlie”, from looking for the fabled promised land to all out revolution. The conditions and situations today of mistreatment and persecution are frighteningly and disgustingly no different then they were 100 years ago. These are essential tracks to play. Utilize this superb collection.
An exceptional talent, frighteningly underrepresented in our library, Terry Callier was a prolific musician and singer, performing blues, soul and folk songs. This 1964 recording live at Chicago’s Mother Blues folk club, offers an intimate performance of Callier, singing eight quiet yet moving folk tunes accompanied by his guitar playing and two acoustic bass players. The moment he starts to sing the audience goes quiet, except for the random plate or cup being moved. His voice is rich and powerful with so much emotion. It kind of makes you melt. It’s like loneliness and sex and strength and pain and kindness and sadness all wrapped up into one. Folk singers were true story tellers and Callier is right up there with the best, weaving his tales with assuredness and power. Your knees will buckle.
bluesy folky blues
Julius Lester accompanies himself on the 12-string, this is one of the two recordings he made in his lifetime. It’s some original and traditional folk blues music from 1966. The guitar and voice seem disconnected, I thought it was two different people at first. Lester’s voice is pretty sounding, unlike other southern blues crooners.
Lester went on to host a radio show at WBAI, teach Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst, but really made a name for himself writing books for children and young adults (which makes for interesting liner notes by Lester.)
Hollow front-porch blues. Slim approved.
PGM: DO NOT PLAY THE FIRST TWO TRACKS ON EITHER SIDE, THE RECORD IS BROKEN!
You’ve gotta love Arhoolie for unearthing a diamond in the rough. Unsung blues gem Robert Brown (known as Smoky Babe) recorded these unreleased tracks with folklyricist Dr. Harry Oster. They are heartfelt, downhome treasures, as are the photos and liner notes on the album sleeve. Perfect for a Fourth of July day spent with sweat rolling down your face and cool lemonade sluicing down your parched throat.
Fine jazz/blues guitar work from Al Casey (NOT the surf guitar guy) and piano from Jay McShann. Really swings, high level of musicianship, very catchy. Some nice bass solos here and there. McShann’s vocals on A3 and B3 are sweet. What fun!
Conrad Praetzel’s latest rendition of the project “Clothesline Revival”, the third under this name, is western blues for the 21st century, and if contemporary blues sounded more like this it would be chart busting much more often. Which does not mean to say this is easy listening. No sir. But it is fun, creative and contagious. Using samples from the iconoclastic Alan Lomax collections as well as other found sound vocal oddities, Praetzel’s work, which is a one man band for this album, plays traditional western blues instrumentation mixed with electronic beats and samples. Riffs are repeated. Traditional vocal arrangements filter in and then take over. The twang of the stringed instrument propels the cuts forward. With elements of 20′s and 30′s blues and western twang, the rough and rich tone stylings of an R.L Burnside, and the use of electronics to fill out the sound, “The Greatest Show On Mars” is a successful addition to the world of blues musics.
John Schooley and Walter Daniels, two ex-punksters/current noisefolkbluesters. Daniels played in Jack O’ Fun with Tim Kerr from Big Boys, and Schooley’s band, The Revelations toured with The Oblivians and Schooley also toured solo with R.L. Burnside (if that’s any testament to his blues abilities).
Here is their folk/blues album, chalked full of covers, this is also the first album where they both play exclusively acoustic instruments. Since they’re so used to making those awesomely strange distorted noises and electronics, they are kind of forced to bring that out in the acoustic sounds. Great collaboration!
Covers of Blind Willie McTell, John Fahey, Hank Williams, and a couple traditional pieces. My favorite is the original “Winston Churchill Cigar Blues.”
Lemon Nash – “Papa Lemon-New Orleans Ukulele Maestro & Tent Show Troubador” – [Arhoolie Productions]
A different way to listen to the uke. This is definitely blues, both southern and folk, with a few World War I songs. Songs related to Lemon Nash’s time in the bars, halls, and the red-light district of 50′s New Orleans and in traveling throughout the south in medicine shows.
Far from common strumming, his right-hand action on the uke is quite nice with lots expert transitions to triplets and picking.
A number of songs are interspersed with cool old stories of his personal experiences. Sweet and fun.
Ladies being ladies, and they ain’t taking shit from no one! Volume One in a collection of independent women’s blues music from 1926-1949, and it bakes. Tunes that assert females are just as strong as their male counterparts, if not stronger.
Since I have a not-so-secret soft spot for ladies blues music, I tend to agree. This album does a great job at exemplifying one of the many themes in blues, and one of the few that is strictly for women, especially at that time: personal independence and not putting up with peoples disrespect.
Maggie Jones, Ida Cox, Rosa Henderson, Billie Holiday, etc. Beautiful voices from beautiful ladies. Rosetta Records release with great liner notes.
3WR: Big Mama’s Blues
Lots of loud rockin blues out of Natchez Mississippi. Elmo fronts with vocals and jams wildly distorted riffs on a Fender, while Hezekiah plays the snare drum and harmonica (simultaneously). Pretty simple, fuzzy, raw, crankin’ electric blues. 1998 release from Fat Possum Records. My favorites: Blue, Booster, Hoopin’, and Natchez for the loud distortiony sound.
deep Delta roots as collected by Alan Lomax ’36-’42. riverside penitentiary hollerin, red-light ragtime bounce, hard-times and hopeful times; hunt songs, work songs, prison songs, and Reverend Savage church songs. and man oh man that Hemphill make some sounds! plenty of interviews, introductions and interjections to place us right there in the dust with the heat and the hunger and the fireflies and hard work days and no work days all for the white man’s cake and cream. yeah Times Is Getting Hard.
Looks can be deceiving, and while the smiling woman on the album cover looks lovely and elegant, she probably can pack a punch, if her amazing piano playing is any indication. She shows chops for sure in each of the songs on this album. Remember the Scott Joplin we added a while back? This is in a league with that. Fantastically energetic boogie and blues, most recorded in 1945-1950, not a one of these will disappoint. Sometimes Brooks is joined by sax, bass, drums, and guitar. She sings on one (B4). I know this gem will get a lot of play. Read the sleeve notes for more facts about this gifted musician.
Born in Texas in August 1916 as Melvin Jackson. Wasn’t a child prodigy like his contemporary, Lightnin’ Hopkins, but did learn to be a mechanic. It wasn’t until after serving in WWII that he decided to make a living playing the guitar, when he earned his nickname for his short stature. Eventually went on to record for Imperial Records with a couple hits.
Coming home from a performance or something, his driver fell asleep at the wheel resulting in a crash. His injuries were enough to make him leave to business, and he went back to being a mechanic.
Great blues numbers here, all tracks are Jackson solo on guitar and vox. Songs about love (Girl I love, Roberta Blues, Louise Blues), foreign places (Cairo Blues, Santa Fe Blues), and general blues-i-ness. Almost MS delta sound, but unique in its own right.
Recorded by Arhoolie label-founder Chris Strachwitz in 1960 (the year he founded the label) in Dallas, TX.
This is a guy and his guitar, except for the last song, which includes other instruments. Gibbs wrote most of the songs on here, and he sings them and plays them with a simplicity and beauty that are rare and true. It’s blues, country, human, and just plain great. Every one is a pleasure to listen to, and I can’t wait to fill in again so I can play me some of these. They are short, sweet, and to the point.
CD from the acclaimed blues artist from Milwaukee. He just passed away in 2012, this was his last album that came out the same year. It’s electric guitar and drum heavy. His talented guitar playing shines. The lyrics are quite cheesy and are about love, both lost and celebrated. What the songs lack in poetic language they more than made up for with Burks’ passionate creative execution. Since I Been Loving You is my favorite. It seems the most honest to me.
Good ol’ fashioned, foot stompin’ live blues music. REcorded live at a bootlegger’s place of business while these three show us what they’re made of. Lattie Murrel, William Floyd Davis, and the Bootlegger himself all make an appearance on here. Murrel plays solo clean fingerpicked Mississippi Delta style, kind of slow and drudging. Davis is more of a faster paced shuffling strumming. The Bootlegger is accompanied by a few others and plays with a full quartet on a couple tracks.
Keep in mind there’s some FCCs between the tracks on the B-Side. Apparently the Bootlegger is a cusser, too. Well written liner notes. Enjoy!
This 4-CD Tompkins Square reissue has 80 mostly great tracks of Gospel music from the Nashboro label that were recorded between 1951 and 1983. Profoundly Christian songs praise Jesus, heaven, and salvation, but are enjoyable by even nonreligious music lovers. Almost all songs were new to me and feature excellent vocals; many have great instrumental accompaniment. Have fun making a joyful noise unto the Lord! Can I get an amen?
Volume Three in a collection of the complete recorded works of the influential, original Mississippi Sheiks. Just the duo of guitarist Walter Vinson and violinist Lonnie Chatman in these recordings, the Sheiks also performed and recorded with the likes of Sam Chatmon and Bo Carter. These recordings come from three different sessions: October 24 and 25, 1931 in Atlanta, and July 20, 1932 in Grafton, WI.
Solid, all original, old blues tunes in the country Delta style. Most of the tracks are uplifting or hopeful, with the occasional downer. The Sheiks had been together for fiveto six years by this point and you can tell, the guitar and violin intermingle quite nicely. Chatman has a deeper voice, and contrasts the weeping of his violin playing.
Recordings from just before the Great Depression. My favorites were A1-3, A8, B2-3, B7-9, but they all have their time and place. Another excellent blues gem.. a sapphire if you will.
In 1959, Alan Lomax recorded four-part Sacred Harp singing in stereo for the first time at this convention in Alabama. Sacred Harp is a book of folk hymns, many with origins in the British Isles. The singers divide among the four walls and then each group sings its unique part. The words are hard to make out, but there is fine spirit here.
PGM: Numbers in the titles refer to the page in the Sacred Harp Hymnal.
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