Music Reviews

Live At The Bootleggers [coll] – [Sutro Park]

mickeyslim   2/19/2014   12-inch, Blues

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!

I Heard The Angels Singing: Electrifying Black Gospel [coll] – [Tompkins Square]

Cousin Mary   2/12/2014   Blues, CD

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?

Mississippi Sheiks, The – “Complete Recorded Works Volume 3” – [Third Man Records]

mickeyslim   1/22/2014   12-inch, Blues

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.

United Sacred Harp Convention – “Alan Lomax Recordings, 1959, The” – [Mississippi Records]

Cousin Mary   12/11/2013   12-inch, Blues

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.

Boyce, RL – “Ain’t The Man’s Alright” – [Sutro Park]

mickeyslim   8/6/2013   12-inch, Blues

World boogie is coming! Inspired by other Mississippi folks R.L. Burnside and Mississippi Fred McDowell, RL Boyce started playing music as a child drumming on a foot tub and slowly moved on to playing the guitar. His first recording was when he was 15 on a track with his uncle, Othar Turner.

Sounds a lot like a more boogie-ing RL Burnside, really. Not as electric as Burnside, but sounds good with the band backing him. Duel drums on two-thirds of the tracks. Plays with his usual cast of friends: Luther Dickinson (guitar), Lightnin’ Malcom (guitar), and Calvin Jackson and Cedric Burnside (drums). Good ol’ blues sounds on a bluesman’s long awaited full length debut. Legit..

Coyote Slim and Teurfs, Colin – “California Delta Blues” – [Self Release]

mickeyslim   7/16/2013   Blues, CD

A man, his guitar, and a pal accompanying on harmonica, sitting playing the blues. New self-released album from Coyote Slim and Colin Teurfs. Good shuffling jumpin’ blues music here..

Slim plays somewhat broken guitar rhythm patterns on a couple tracks and knows his way around the Mississippi Delta style. His unique voice is hauntingly low and a bit grizzy, contrasting the higher pitch harmonica wail. The tracks have a stripped down feel because it’s only just the two of them, and it sounds a little produced, but it gives the guitar sound a crisp clean crunch. His voice gives the tracks a sense of honesty and truthfulness. Track 3 is a true story of his house burning down. Of course, I’m a sucker for “Slim’s Boogie” which is a toe tapper…

The two tracks without the harmonica seem to be lacking, but track 4 (Charlie Patton tune) still holds it’s own. I like that the Teurfs knows how to keep a good rhythm with the harmonica AND can also tear it up when he needs. Great new self-release from local bluesman, who’d have thought?

Origins of American Primitive Guitar [coll] – [Tompkins Square]

humana   7/8/2013   12-inch, Blues

This is like a step back in time to early rural America, and reading the liner notes on the album is essential to appreciating the significance of the music contained herein. The artists on this record took guitars and banjos and introduced them to parlors in much the same way that hosts of salons in France introduced literary ideas and philosophy. Dating from 1923 to 1938, most of the songs are instrumental, although Side B contains a bit more commentary to accompany the music. Sylvester Weaver’s “Guitar Blues” was the first finger picked guitar solo to be recorded, ever.

Ridgley, Tommy – “Tommy Ridgley Collection, The” – [Acrobat Music]

humana   6/9/2013   Blues, CD

Two discs chock full of R&B nostalgia. I thoroughly enjoyed how this made me feel like I was doing domestic chores like my mother, listening to excellent music to help me through the mundane nature of what I was doing. The New Orleans native performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival from 1972 until his death in 1999. You can???t go wrong, no matter which disc or song you sample. Enjoy.

Drop On Down In Florida [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

Cousin Mary   6/5/2013   Blues, CD

Originally recorded from 1977 to 1980 as an NEA project, Dust-to-Digital is bringing these tracks from African Americans in North Florida to the public’s attention again. Some songs record how blacks came to Florida from other parts of the deep South for better opportunities. One CD of secular music in the blues tradition includes Moses Williams’ one string zither – a primitive one string instrument possibly related to West African music that was brought over by slaves. The other CD of sacred music is from the churches – hymns rather than jazzed up gospel tunes with examples of shape-note singing. For each track, there are very comprehensive notes in a 200+ pages book that accompanies the CDs. The music itself is from regular folks in plain settings with background coughs and noise. Vocals are frequently incomprehensible due to thick accents. Priceless not because of its virtuosity, but because it is a record of traditions likely to be lost.

Anderson, Marisa – “Mercury” – [Mississippi Records]

Cousin Mary   5/29/2013   Blues, CD

Portland, Oregon based Marisa Anderson says she applies classical technique to her music. No matter, this is lovely stuff for solo guitar and lap steel (no vocals) that shows stunning virtuosity. Her renditions of her compositions bridge boundaries of folk, blues and country.

This album is said to recall experiences from her travels that began at age 19 and continued for 15 years.

Haunting, lush, beautiful.

Classic Harmonica Blues [coll] – [Smithsonian Folkways]

mickeyslim   5/22/2013   Blues, CD

As the title indicates, another release of old timey blues harmonica sounds from Smithsonian Folkways. With the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Phil Wiggins, John Cephas, Eddie Burns and more, this collects a good number of the often glossed over harmonica players.

Recordings from ’52 to ’08; tracks like ‘Take Your Fingers Off It’ sound like they are clearly home recordings (that one recorded by prolific writer and blues historian, Sam Charters) due to a slightly lower sound quality, even though most of the tracks are recorded in and around the late ’80s and ’90s.

The one person I’d never heard of, Doctor Ross the Harmonica Boss, blew me away, in fact, the harmonica playing on the album is undeniably influential to any aspiring harp player. The solo acts where it’s just a man and his harmonica signing a blues track are particularly impressive (Bye Bye Bird!). Deep, extensive liner notes… learn yo’ self something.

Devil Is Busy In Knoxville, The [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/26/2013   12-inch, Blues

Many things flow from the mighty Mississippi (label), and
here some 78’s wash up, cleaned up and darn near baptised.
Despite the title of the album (a presumed nod to Leola
Manning’s “The Devil Is Busy in Knoxville”) this is no
collection of murder ballads, but instead his grace and pearly
gates, where “Fify Miles of Elbow Room” await us. The
harmonies on here are downright heavenly. Not just frequent
angel-wing fliers like the Carter Family but the straight
collar sweet hollar of the Anglin Brothers and the Delmore
Brothers (connecting to Palace and Everly brothers in my
sacred heart and scarred ears). Of course the purest
chorus comes from the mouth of babes, and “Chariot Jubilee”
sounds like it could almost be a pacific island sublime
frequency call and response chat. Too short. If you want
a little hint of the apple polished by the serpent, check
out the rough and ready work of Elder Richard Bryant’s
Sanctified Singers, or the Silent Grove Baptist Church
Congregation (the shadowy bass accompaniment behind
the powerhouse unknown lead male vocal defying the Grave).
Is Rev I.B. Ware a real person, I reckon so but his sentiment
“I Wouldn’t Mind Dying” closes this album, which also
features the cover lady, the mighty Sister Rosetta Tharpe
belting out a tune from her thinner days, and holding a
note too high and pure for any devil to touch. Sing on
sister and brothers, sing on right on past the grave.

-Br’er ‘Unger

Rivers, Boyd – “You Can’t Make Me Doubt” – [Mississippi Records]

abacus   4/24/2013   12-inch, Blues

This gospel giant born Christmas day 1934 never seemed to get his voice heard much outside of the Mississippi area where he hailed from, though he did play a bit in France and Italy. Front porch country-blues stomp played clean with a hint of backwoods grit and some real raw twang. He pelts out these prayers with some big belly wailin’ and gap-tooth moans that really let out that spiritual energy rooted deep to the core. I hear they called him Reverend Boyd Rivers though who knows if he ever lead a sermon in his life. I did read that he sang in local churches around Madison County and had an ample supply of biblical anecdotes. Friendly and easygoing but also intense and passionate, he liked to hang out with his friends at JoJo’s gas station/convenience store on Highway 51, the main street of Pickens, MS, of which he lived 5 miles outside at the end of a two-mile long gravel road. I’m no religious man, but I would’ve liked to sit back and hear him preach. He died of a heart attack November 22 1993.

Time Will Make a Change [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

mickeyslim   4/17/2013   12-inch, Blues

Mississippi relases another selection of obscure and unknown gospel tunes, this time running in the blues vein. First side is more of gospelish R&B singing groups. There’s acool version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that’s super slow. And a cool vesion of Amazing Grace by the whirlwinds, who twist up their own rockin’ version of this otherwise somber tune.

More solo acts on the flip side, including a killer, grity song by Ethel Prift called What time Is It? Also, a couple tracks by reverends and their congregation, the first of which sounds more Delta bluesish with the use of guitar. The second one is just clapping and call and response signing. Favorite is the last track, which is super lo fi, garagey blues, as another version of Swing Low, I call it a Punk sea shanty. Dig in…

Profit, Ethel – “Ethel Profit” – [Mississippi Records]

surferrosa   4/17/2013   7-inch, Blues

Ethel Profit is a woman with a voice to make your heart bleed. Her smokey voice is accompanied by the blusiest of solo blues guitar.. teetering on the fringe of gospel with the tracks Death is Not the End and Life is a Battle, both uplifting and somehow melancholic…lonesome. The nature of this old recording gives it a natural sort of overdrive, you can hear the sound peaking and crackling when Ethel really starts to wail…and does she ever. Simple and soulful, dug up from the depths of Mississippi Records’ unbelievable sonic archives. -Surfer Rosa

Hemphill, Sid – “Devil’s Dream, The” – [Mississippi Records]

surferrosa   4/16/2013   12-inch, Blues

These are archival recordings collected by Alan Lomax, ethnomusicologist and folklorist, of Sid Hemphill (1876-1961) out of Sledge Mississippi, recorded August 1942…Sid Hemphill called his work ‘old folks music’ and handmade many of his band’s instruments. These recordings are full of crackly old folk songs and instrumentals, most certainly with that post-war, whiskey sippin’, jams and ditties on the front porch on a hot day sort of sound. Outstanding fiddle-fodder makes for a square dance kind of feel on a lot of these tracks.. banjo twang to make your toes tap.. Some feature the ‘quil’ a hand cut cane panpipe, which you can find on many of the short instrumentals paired with a snare drum, which echoes of a civil war drum-line march. Vocals are soulful, and gritty, wailing about hunting or the devil himself. All this underlined with the wonderful pops, cracks and hisses of a recording made long long ago. -Surfer Rosa

a Short Life of Trouble [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

mickeyslim   3/19/2013   12-inch, Blues

At it again, Mississippi Records releases a collection of gems from big names like The Carter Family and Woody Guthrie, to the obscure Shortbuckle Roark or Buell Kazee. Ol’ time folk tracks recorded between ’27 and ’43, dealing with murder and lost loves. Slide guitar, banjoes, fiddles, harmonies, and no percussion of any kind on the whole album. Most of the tracks are traditional ballads, and have no real author, much like “John Henry.”

“Pretty Polly” is a banjo murder balled. “Why I’m Grieving” is a yodeling sister duo, and there’s a bitchin’ version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” on the B-side. Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louise Collins” is about the murder of a girl, originally about a male victim. Rare recording of solo Jimmie Tarlton who almost exclusively recorded with a guy named Tom Darby. A couple Delta bluesy song find their way in there, too. Check it out, drop that needle like its hot…

Georgia Sea Island Singers – “Join The Band” – [Mississippi Records]

MSTiZA   1/9/2013   12-inch, Blues

The Georgia Sea Island Singers were a folk ensemble that formed in the early 1900s. They traveled performing songs. They are descendants of slaves who identify as Gullah. ??The members have changed over the years. There have been a handful of recordings. And the lineup has included Bessie Jones, Joe Armstrong, Mable Hillery, and Frankie SUllivan Quimby. This release was recorded by Alan Lomax in St. Simons Island, Georgia in Oct. ’59. Additional recording took place in April ’60 in Williamsburg Virginia. Alan Lomax was a musicologist, wtriter and producer who spent most of his life in the pursuit of archiving American folk musicians throughout the mid-south west and it’s nearing territories. his is a collaboration between Alan Lomax Archive and Mississippi Records. It’s is a beautiful testimony to the heritage that the Gullah kept alive.

Thomas, Henry – “Bull Doze Blues” – [Mississippi Records]

Max Level   12/4/2012   12-inch, Blues

A totally charming blues album. Thomas, a Texas native who hoboed and railroaded his way all around the country, recorded these tracks way back in the 1920’s. Every song is upbeat and almost jaunty, influenced by the ragtime music popular at that time. Thomas accompanies himself on guitar and one of the most distinctive blues sounds I’ve heard–he plays the quills, a home made panpipe type instrument with its origins in American slavery. He plays it the way another blues singer might play mouthharp and it makes me smile every time he whips it out. His songs especially caught on with west coast blues revivalists of the 1960’s-70s such as Canned Heat, Taj Mahal, and Hot Tuna, who either covered his songs or “borrowed” them to write their own songs. I’m not exactly a blues aficionado–give me Albert King and Big Mama Thornton and I’m happy–but I could not stop playing this once it got its hooks in me.

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