12 head-boppin’ tracks from Lighnin’ Hopkins’ Herald sessions recorded 1954 in Houston, Texas. While Hopkins was renown for his folk blues sound, this album leans toward rock ’n’ roll with Hopkins jamming on electric guitar accompanied by Donald Cooks on bass and Ben Turner on drums. A couple boogie tracks and still lots of slow, somber numbers.
As always, though, these are great tracks with great stories with virtuosic guitar playing. Lightnin’ Hopkins knows how to bring the house down. As the liner noters say, “roll back the carpet and put on your dancing shoes. This is no folk-blues session.”
Byrd, John & Taylor, Walter – "Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order 1929-1931" – [RST Records]
John Byrd & Walter Taylor (1929-1931), Complete Recordings in chronological order
18 Rare country blues. Split LP, Byrd on side A; Walter Taylor (“Washboard Walter”) on the flip. Acquired taste, low-fi stuff for completists, Mickey Slim, & Pete Dixon. From Joe Bussard’s basement collection.
A1 & A2 recall spirituals, set up with John Byrd playing guitar & sermonizing, accompanied by a singer and a few congregants. Byrd is a cool guitar player. B side is kind of pedestrian.
Wowza! As you’re swinging to these blues, be sure to read the liner notes about how Tutu was accomplished by the age of 20, created his first guitar by nailing his uncle’s fishing line to a board when he was a tot, and grew up with father and uncles surrounding him in the blues tradition. His wife sings backup on Track 3, and there are some soulful blues tunes on here as well (e.g. Track 8). Dallas has itself one fine shining star.
Although the CD sleeve and feel of this is old-timey blues, Crockett (and yes, he’s a descendant of Davy Crockett) is only 35 years old. This is a collection of sometimes rollicking, always true blue blues. Enjoy.
Jesse Fuller is the one-man band. Fuller plays the twelve-string guitar, has a harmonica, kazoo, and microphone in his mouth rig, and plays a series of foot pedals attached to a washboard and the fotdella (a foot-operated bass guitar), an instrument of his own invention. The washboard needed to be lubricated before being played, which, for this recording, was “provided by oil from the finest Norwegian smoked salmon, which everyone at the session (except Jesse who didn’t care for it) was consuming with relish.”
Jumpy, folk blues from this Georgia-turned-California native. Fuller was an unsung, old-school, busking style, folk blues hero. Famous for his original “San Francisco Bay Blues,” Fuller’s music influenced folk and rock legends across the globe. This release from Prestige Records is a solid classic
Rec. ’69, Folksinger Frederick D. Douglass Kirkpatrick is backed by The Hearts for these 10 soul square dances. Great add to our collection of both artists. Side A is the hokey-pokey and other mellow fare. The Rev’s call-and-response with the Hearts insistent backing gets hot on Side B. Outstanding book, in case you need more direction.
Judy Henske is a singer of blues, folk, country and jazz. Her career was full of connections with big names: she opened for Lenny Bruce, was a regular on tv’s Hootenanny, performed on the Judy Garland show but turned down a chance to be a regular, shared the stage with Woody Allen and is the original influence for Annie Hall, oh and so much more. These two albums from 1963 and 1964 capture a highlight of her career when she tore up the nightclub and coffee house scene coast to coast. She has a brash, boisterous, powerful voice which really work the lyrics and create a tone for the selections of blues and murder ballads. She never holds back with her emotion. Powerful stuff. What is really exciting, though, is her chat before the songs. These are recorded live and the audience loves her audacious, snarky, suggestive intros to the songs. Henske is like a Lenny Bruce crooner, irreverent and stunning, not afraid to go there. A brilliant collection of an amazing singer songwriter. All Hail the other Judy.
Nothing is known about Willie Baker, except that he would, as a child, play in Patterson, Georgia and that he may have gone to a Robert Hicks medicine show in Waycross, GA.
Charley Lincoln on the other hand, was born 3/11/1900. He performed with his brother, Robert Hicks (the same as above), professionally known as Barbecue Bob, for many years. After his mother and brother passed away, Charley became a very heavy alcoholic. He shot someone on Christmas Day 1955, and ended up going to prison. He died there of a brain hemorrhage in September 1963.
Atlanta, Georgia blues. One man, one guitar, one front porch.
Mr. Fat Possum Records, R.L. Burnside’s houserockin’ blues. This is one of the few remaining records from this bluesman that we don’t have. For those unfamiliar, R.L. Burnside was born November 1926 in Lafayette, Mississippi, and started playing blues after hearing John Lee Hooker. He got a later start than others, but still knows how to bring the heat. Burnside helped define the sound of Fat Possum Records alongside Junior Kimbrough. His son, Cedric Burnside (who plays the drummer in the film Black Snake Moan), makes an appearance on track 4. Electric, fuzzy, scuzzy, blues.
Come on in, the water’s fine….
Marvin Pontiac was a blues singer of posthumous legendary status. Institutionalized at Esmerelda State Mental Institution, Marvin’s history is rich: only 3 photos were taken of him because of his belief that his soul would be taken by the camera, his abduction and probing by aliens, born in Mali, said to be a gifted musical genius, killed when hit by a bus, and he made some pretty great songs. The 14 songs on this recording deal with strange topics: Pontiac being a doggy, him obsessing on pancakes and rocks, him watching a fly drown in his soup. Many seem to be metaphors or puzzles into his past. They are humorous if not for the possible fact of their sickness. But wait: is this for real? Not so. Marvin Pontiac is actually John Lurie’s (Lounge Lizards) made up outsider artist. The project was” a wry and purposeful sendup of the ways in which critics canonize and worship the disenfranchised and the bedevilled” as stated in The New Yorker. Interesting considering Lurie’s own strange story written in the New Yorker about being stalked, disappearing, art and confusion. Look it up and ponder the relationship. A good, deep joke of high quality.
Ann Rabson was a blues singer, guitarist and piano player of renown in the blues world. She was recognized for her smoky voice and easy style that ran through the songs. “Struttin’ My Stuff”, Ann’s second recording, showcases both her instrumental skills and vocal excellence. Whether finger picking the songs or elegantly playing the piano, Rabson’s style is one of ease and assuredness. Her vocals are so smooth and easily carry through each song. Though she sings about many typical blues issues, her power and lightheartedness bring a unique quality to the sounds. Ann was probably a person who could hold her own: she sings about her love of whiskey and how she’s a big woman not to be messed with. Each song, whether honky tonk or Chicago blues style is a pleasure to listen to. I kept finding myself coming back to this CD over and over, for so many reasons, but mainly for it’s shear quality. A true gem.
Martin Carthy is a British folk singer whose influence is far and wide in the world of folk and blues. Having started in the early 1960’s with the group The Three City Four, he went on to perform with Steeleye Span, members of Fairport Convention for the group Albion Country Band and also with Brass Monkey. He is known for his arrangement of the traditional tune “Scarborough Fair” which was then used by Simon And Garfunkel without acknowledgement. This collection of 17 songs, many traditional, is Carthy playing solo with his acoustic guitar. He likes to use alternative tunings and has a distinctive picking style which emphasizes the melody” of the song. Each song is a rich story, filled with passion due to the guitar work but also because of Carthy’s unique vocals. The vocals follow, add to and play with the guitar work, creating drama in the rendering of each songs tale. There are tearjerkers a plenty plus songs of humor. He is a hero of modern day bard, Richard Dawson. Just a wow of a voice and guitar playing.
This CD is a jewel traveling to us from 1995 and debuts the rich, hearty, nourishing voice of blues singer Sista Monica. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll learn that she moved to Santa Cruz. It’s true that her voice is an instrument, and though she is known for her blues, she stirs in elements of soul and rock and gospel (in the last song you can hear her gospel singing roots). This is a great add for our library. Sista Monica may have left the world, but her voice reverberates on.
Activist, poet, revolutionary blues singer, musicologist, friend of Fidel Castro, reporter of North Vietnam and so much more. Coming out of the coffee house folk scene of the late 1950’s, Lester’s trajectory followed that of the civil rights movements of many places during this time. Here is a selection of songs from the two albums he recorde. Just him and his guitar. A stunner of a vocalist with lyrics that do not hold back… these are in your face commentaries about the injustices of social conditions directed primarily toward African Americans. Songs of police attacks and profiling, economic disparity, work inequality… it could be today as much as the 1960’s and 70’s. Things don’t always change. Powerful and strong. “Stagolee” is a 13 minute epic equal in quality to Dylan'” and Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”. Brilliant, sad, depressing stuff.
If the “N” word is considered an FCC then FCC on tracks 7,11,13 and 14.
Yowsa. Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan & The Uptown Rhythm Kings are recreating a type of blues band called Honkers or Shouters that came out of the 1940’s. Horn driven, big vocals, hep cat jive stylin’ but done without kitsch. This is serious fun, recorde live at Fleetwood. Sheridan’s vocals take hold and lead the audience into rhythm frenzy with songs about dumping the wife and opening up the back door, if you know what I mean. The band is tight, with horns taking charge. A blast of fun that I could hear on any number of shows. Have fun.
After early success, the Depression turned him into a streetsweeper until 60s blues revival resurrected him. Recorded March ’69. Tracks left off his Fourth & Beale album. On his bed, leg off, slurring, drunk, out of tune. Blues, rags, religious, vaudeville. Recording tells a story, he’s a good show. Grows on you.
Religious:3,12. Drunk:4,8,9,12. Track 7 yodels. Mistakes:9. Track 2 ends when he gets worried the the snuff’s all gone.
Dubbed “The Best of the JSP Studio Sessions,” these blues songs are infused with rock and funk, which put them into an enjoyable blues league of their own. Lucky’s father and his wife collaborate with him on these tracks, and rarely has a family reunion such as this sounded so good. This should get plenty of play.
This reissue of a 1951 King album is truly blue and moody, as the title promises. A great band accompanies the hearty voice of Lula Reed, changing the mood on alternate songs from jazzy blues to dark moods. Try “Going Back to Mexico” and then “I’ll Drown in My Tears” to see what I mean.
Rory Block needs no introduction to those in the know of blues singers and musicians. Winner of numerous blues awards, Block has established a catalogue of respected recordings. “A Woman’s Soul”, which is a tribute to Bessie Smith, is the first in her”Power Women of the Blues” series which will honor a variety of distinguished female blues singers. Tribute albums can be a dangerous thing, a slippery slope. They often fall flat because the interpretation is to try and sound exactly like the original or to change the artist’s work so much that it just sounds ridiculous. Neither is the case in this wonderful 2018 collection of the familiar and the obscure and rare of Bessie Smith’s own catalogue of tunes. Smith’s voice was powerful, her interpretation unique within the confines of the blues musical pattern. Black takes these songs and makes them her own, in a great way. First, the instrumentation: Block plays all instruments – acoustic guitars, bass and percussion which is things like blocks, sticks, and boxes including oatmeal boxes. She puts this together in a manner that sometimes falls toward old country, and that is a good thing. Then her vocals: she has this vibrato that accentuates key words and phrases. Top that with her holding out specific notes and the meaning gets layered and put in your head. Her pitch rises and falls with the story she is telling, sometimes working out a guttural vocalization which hits the spot. This is a double thumbs up. Pure joy.
The staticky quality of these recordings are perfect for the blues, and Carr proves that misery loves company with these songs. Recorded circa the years of the Great Depression, we get a true feel for how tough things can be. “Rainy Day Blues” is awesome, as are many of the other tracks. Looking to commiserate? Try any of these to keep those lonesome feelings at bay.
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