Music Reviews

I Woke Up One Morning In May [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

ArtCrimes   8/4/2009   12-inch, Blues

Another mysterious vinyl release (limited to 1,000 copies) from Mississippi Records in Portland OR, who don’t actually care to put the name of their company on their releases (I wrote it on the cover myself), and don’t even have a website (all online info about their releases is compiled by third parties). This one is mostly country blues 78s from 1927-1934… not all of them are that uncommon, but there’s a few new additions here for KFJC’s blues holdings. Like some other Mississippi compilations, the mastering quality is very good, and the cover art is appealing, but the annotation is limited: you get artist names and track titles – anything beyond that requires some research (I’ve added year of release on the cover tracklist). Among the tracks we didn’t have at KFJC already, the Buster Johnson track features some rough sounding fiddle, Little Hat Jones’s track was used in “Ghost World”, Louie Lasky is pretty obscure but well regarded among guitar players, and Willie Baker is also very obscure, with a distinctive 12 string sound. >crimes

Chicago Blues Harmonica Project – More Rare Gems [coll] – [Severn Records]

Cousin Mary   6/8/2009   Blues, CD

This is the second album from the Chicago Blues Harmonica Project featuring 6 Chicago based harmonica players – each plays 2 tracks for a total of 12. It shows that ???blues harp??? is still alive and well in the Windy City. All tracks are backed up by the Chicago Bluesmasters. (piano/guitar/bass/drums).

All harmonica players sing and play well ??? lively tunes with fun lyrics. Not groundbreaking, but solid competent blues.

I Got Two Wings [coll] – [Casequarter]

Cousin Mary   5/26/2009   Blues, CD

This CD was produced to accompany I Got Two Wings, Lynn Abbots???s book on the electric guitar playing evangelist Rev. Utah Smith who was an important figure in the mostly black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ. He performed wearing wings and the CD includes a number of versions of the title song. The album also includes Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sister Sarah James and others associated with the COGIC. Tracks are from the 1920???s through 1950???s.

Very fine gospel shouting and singing, great guitar playing.

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe – “1929-1934 Recordings In Chronological Order Vol. 2” – [Document Records]

Cousin Mary   3/6/2009   Blues, CD

Memphis Minnie (1897-1973) and Kansas Joe (married to each other at the time) were discovered on the streets of Memphis and had recently moved to Chicago for a recording contract in the early 1930???s when these tracks were made. Fine vocals and guitar from both on a variety of blues topics from being deathly ill with meningitis (???Memphis Minnie-Jitis Blues???) to a story about a horse (???Frankie Jean???). Plenty of sexual innuendo on ???Bumble Bee???, ???What???s the matter with the mill???? and many others.

Liner notes identify specific musicians for each track. Track 11 has whistling, 16 and 17 jug band and harmonica.

Specter, Dave – “Left Turn on Blue” – [Delmark]

domitype   1/19/2009   Blues, CD

A Big Guitar kinda blues, but with a heavy Jazz/ 40’s-50’s R&B influence from
this Chicago based electric guitarist/songwriter, Dave Specter and his
Bluebirds. There is a solid two horn section and a groovin HAMMOND B-3 from
veteran Brother Jack McDuff, along with vocals and harmonica work from Lynwood
Slim (a SoCal blues guy since the 70’s.) Really a good feel to this record. I like!

Dave Richoux

Riley, Dave and Bob Corritore – “Travelin’ The Dirt Road ” – [Blue Witch Records]

Cousin Mary   1/13/2009   Blues, CD

Downhome blues with Riley on guitar and vocals and
Corritone on harmonica. The duo and the label Blue Witch
Records are from Phoenix, Arizona. Both spent time in
the Chicago blues scene, Riley grew up in Mississippi.

Well played and good listening, but not breaking any new
ground. The possible exception is ???Overalls??? where
Riley tells us he shouldn???t wear overalls because he doesn???t
wear underdrawers ??? too much information blues?

Aladdin Records Story, The [coll] – [Emi]

Cousin Mary   1/12/2009   Blues, CD

Aladdin Records (aka Philo and Lamp) was founded in Hollywood by the Mesner brothers in 1946 and recorded some jazz, lots of R&B, and early rock ???n??? roll. This out-of-print 2-CD set hits the high points of their artists??? work. Upbeat, lots of innuendo, fun!

The earlier works are especially delightful ??? but a few of the later tracks are pretty typical bop-bop-she-bop stuff.

Language on Mother Fuyer, CD 1, track 6.

Lenoir, J.B. – “J.B. Lenoir ” – [Roots]

Cousin Mary   1/11/2009   12-inch, Blues

These recordings from 1951 ??? 1956 show off Lenoir???s songwriting, guitar playing and sweet boyish voice. Unusual for blues at the time is that some songs tackle national issues such as Eisenhower, the Korean War, and paying taxes. Plenty of hints of early rock and roll.

John Mayall and Elvis Costello, who have covered his songs, cite Lenoir as an influence. Born in 1929, Lenoir died in a car accident in 1967.

Mann, Steve – “Alive and Pickin’ ” – [Bella Roma]

ArtCrimes   8/3/2008   Blues, CD

Steve Mann released a few LPs in the 60s highlighting his renditions of traditional (such as John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson) and contemporary (Mose Allison) blues, and he spent some time as a session man in LA backing artists like Dr John and even Sonny & Cher, but he???s often been sidelined by mental illness and has only recently been performing again. It???s a shame he hasn’t had more attention, as his guitar playing is quite distinctive, almost pianistic in scope rather than just a duplication of traditional blues styles. These recordings are mostly taken from non-commercial sessions at clubs and settings like apartment rooms, with tapes offered up by longtime fans like Stefan Grossman. Three tracks with a pre-Big Brother Janis Joplin date back to 1964 and feature her doing traditional blues. One new track, the instrumental ???Hasta Luego???, was recorded especially for this release, and shows that Mann???s playing skills are not diminished. You can also find Steve on the first “Imaginational Anthem” collection, where he’s featured on 2 tracks.

Country Girls! 1927-1935, The [coll] – [Origin Jazz Library]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

The Country Girls! 1927-1935: 16 Rare Blues and Ballads with Guitar

10 female country blues artists from 1927-1934. Some overlap here with other more modern day collections in KFJC’s holdings (Geeshie Wiley, Lucille Bogan, Memphis Minnie), but a few welcome obscurities like Rose Mae Moore and Lillian Miller. Many of these tracks are voice accompanied by one or two guitars, with a few having additional players and a couple of male visitors interjecting comments or cackling. Always amazing to hear the sound of untrained voices, telling it like it was, and the guitar playing here is often fascinating as well.

Weldon, Casey Bill – “1935-1937 Remaining Titles & Alternate Takes ” – [Document Records]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

Casey Bill Weldon:
1935-1937 Remaining Titles & Alternate Takes

The final volume of Document???s trawl through Casey Bill???s extensive recordings, presenting a wide range of settings for his really exceptional guitar playing and vocals. All recordings made in Chicago, the topics here including street walkers and race horses, as well as some supernatural business. The Washboard Rhythm King tracks (side 1, tracks 5-8) are a hokum band with clarinet, kazoo, and washboard. The last three tracks here feature ???His Orchestra???, with one-time Washboard Rhythm King Arnett Nelson on clarinet along with several unknown players delivering a surprisingly full sound. As is often the case with Chicago sessions of the time, Tampa Red, Bill Broonzy and Peetie Wheatstraw make appearances.

Jones, Maggie – “Vol. 1 1923-1924 ” – [Wolf Records]

ArtCrimes   1/8/2008   12-inch, Blues

Maggie Jones:
Vol. 1 1923-1924 Complete Recordings in Chronological Order

Somewhat in the ???Blues Empress??? fashion of Bessie Smith, Maggie Jones recorded in NYC with some of the top-flight jazz players of the day, including Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Don Redman. But there???s also a few very stark tracks with her backed by only a banjo, where she uses her voice in a very different way in order to not overwhelm her accompanist (side 1, tracks 5-8). ???Anybody Here Want to Try My Cabbage??? is probably her best known track, and it???s typical of the saucy innuendo that lurks here. As with these ???complete??? collections, there???s a few alternate takes that may not vary too much, and a couple of tracks were mastered with skips!

Set Your Fields On Fire Vol. 2 [coll] – [Georgia Council For The Arts]

ArtCrimes   11/27/2007   Blues, CD

[collection] ???Set Your Fields on Fire Vol. 2???
full length CD

A mixture of contemporary field recordings and archival tracks featuring black and white gospel groups, all recorded in Georgia from the 1920s to the present day. The styles range from church-based congregational singing, to country and bluegrass, to solo vocalists, to funky (amd not-so-funky) full bands. Most of the tracks here are modern recordings done in churches, so sometimes the sonics are a little on the rough side, but you do catch the gospel vibe loud and clear. Some interesting moments here with black shape note singing (#4), sounding very different from traditional shape note, real old-time country duo singing (#19) and some wild pedal steel on # 15.

Dalton, Karen – “Cotton Eyed Joe ” – [Megaphone Records]

ArtCrimes   11/27/2007   Blues, CD

Karen Dalton ???Cotton Eyed Joe??? (The Loop Tapes Live in Boulder 1962) full length double CD + DVD

Karen Dalton was a hard livin??? folk singer who had more in common with blues artists and jazz-inflected folk singers like Fred Neil than the more mainstream folkies like Joan Baez. Neil and Bob Dylan were both big fans of her singing and her playing. She Dalton was living out in the Colorado mountains at the time of these recordings, so this gig at the Attic in Boulder was sort of a local show for her. She covers a mixture of traditional and blues, all arranged for her own 12 string guitar (or banjo) and (sometimes ragged) voice. The traditional tunes are often chilling in their starkness, and everything here is done in a way all her own. Dalton later fell on hard times; she passed away in 1993.

The DVD has videos made for French TV with two songs in NYC in 1969 and two filmed at her home on Colorado in 1970.

Spiritualaires of Hurtsboro, Alabama, The – “Singing Songs of Praise ” – [Aum Fidelity]

Thurston Hunger   5/3/2007   Blues, CD

I think we’ve all spent some time in our own private Hurtsboro? Even as
a charismatic agnostic, this gets an “Amen” from me. Gospel, like its
savior, works in mysterious ways…and genres. It can draw strength
from suppressed sexuality via soul, it can get earthy in a country vein
(like a miner baptised in a coal mine). Or, as the Spiritualaires do,
it can dig deep inside via the blues. If you are in pain, something
about a profound bass vocal gives you a rock to build from, fill that
out with some sweet harmonies but don’t rush things. Let the notes and
the pain linger, just a bit. Add in slow clap, it help with the
weariness. Not too fast, now. Guitarist Curtis Harris testifies in tight
spots here as well, delivers his own slow-mo Mali style fretting…you
could plug him in next to Tinariwen and not miss a beat. Radio fans do
not miss tracks #3 and #8, clips from the Spiritualaires Radio Program!
“If that car run good and look bad…bring it on in…he’ll make it
look good.” Sounds like a modern-day miracle worker to me! KFJC should
do all our underwriting in Spiritualaires style. “Some Folk Say” brings
in a falsetto voice, and a peppier beat, and almost tastes like a
hootenanny. While I may reserve judgement regarding the big If in the
sky, I’m fine worshipping the pride and joy of Hurtsboro.

-Thurston Hunger

American Primitive Vol. 2 [coll] – [Revenant Records]

ArtCrimes   3/28/2007   Blues, CD

50 great moments in recording history, ranging from blues, gospel, country, & jazz, to the just-plain-indescribable (one man band Tommy Settlers, for instance). Most folks here get 2-3 tracks each, and in some cases you can barely believe it???s the same artist. In collections like this, it???s always hard to pick the highlights, since many of these artists may not have recorded much more than what???s included here, but for immediate goose flesh, I direct you to The NuGrape Twins, Geeshie Wiley, Blues Birdhead & Mattie May Thomas. As in all Revenant products, this collection of Pre-War recordings is more than just old songs on CDs…the nicely-designed booklet not only has plentiful track info but also extensive historical and philosophical background into the project, and some great John Fahey anecdotes. For instance … John Fahey was obsessed with the past, to the extreme of releasing some of his recordings on 78s and then sticking copies into stacks of old records in thrift stores, sort of negative-shoplifting, in hopes of … well, we aren???t sure.

Weaver, Sylvester – “Remaining Titles of Sylvester Weaver 1924-1927, The ” – [Earl Records]

shiroi   10/29/2006   12-inch, Blues


Very good old rare blues and blues-folk. “I’m Busy And You Can’t Come In” is a perky folk instrumental. “Where Shall I Be?” has a female vocals group added to Sylvester’s guitar. This is mostly well preserved considering its age and rarity. “Weaver Stomp” is cool midtempo minimal jovial track. “Soft Steel Piston” sounds like “Oh Susanna” in places. “Bottleneck Blues” is a lively instrumental. “Guitar Rag” and “St Louis Blues” are the scratchiest sounding but still have a cool charm from that. “Black Spider Blues” includes Sylvester’s desire to put that spider in the bottom of your shoe. – Shiroi

Female Country Blues 1 [coll] – [Rst]

Max Level   1/7/2006   12-inch, Blues

1988 re-issue on RST Records, out of Vienna, Austria. Material by a handful of not-well-known singers, originally released on 78 in the mid-to-late 1920s. Sound quality is not great, since every recording here is at least 75 years old, but it’s certainly all listenable. Vocal performances, with mostly guitar or piano accompaniment, by Anna Lee Chisholm, Virginia Childs, Eva Parker, Cora Perkins, and Lulu Jackson who seems to be the featured artist here. Lulu sings/plays guitar/whistles on 8 tracks, far more appearances than any of the other singers, and she’s pictured on the LP cover. I prefer the blues mama earthiness of some of the others to Lulu’s high-pitched birdsongs. A couple of songs are offered in multiple versions, so it’s interesting to compare the different stylists. A fascinating look at some of the roots of the blues.

Sharp, Elliott/Terraplane – “Do the Don’t ” – [Zoar Records]

Max Level   1/2/2006   Blues, CD

It’s The Blues all right, and this CD is going in the Blues library, but this band seems to be on a mission to stretch the boundaries of the genre. Funk, rock, jazz, gospel, reggae, and even (I think) a few computer-generated sounds are in the mix. Sharp’s fiery guitars are everywhere; I especially like his crazy way with the lap steel. Also on the front line: Sam Furnace on saxes, and the soulful vocals of Dean Bowman and/or Eric Mingus. Guest guitar legend Hubert Sumlin ignites three tracks with his raw blues power. Notable tracks: #2 uses a tribal beat to take us to church, #5 rolls and lurches like The Magic Band at their best, #7 is a high-powered urban shuffle. A solid effort. Fun. Slightly weird. Highly recommended. Instrumentals: #1,4,6,8,9,10.

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