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Musicologist Harry Oster recorded these songs in the tool room of the Angola State Prison in Louisiana in 1959. Oster considered Robert “Guitar” Welch and Matthew “Hogman” Maxey as fine blues musicians, but felt that Robert Pete Williams was a true innovator. Oster had a part in Williams’ release from prison and his later work; he appeared at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and toured the US and Europe.
Oster’s liner notes are priceless, noting the influence of radio and TV that already affected the music of these prisoners. He analyzes each piece and points out the musical complexity coming from “unschooled” convicts.
This is the real deal, no jokey lyrics or novelty, but the genuine blues from the down and out. Watch out, this will break your heart.
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