Music Reviews

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.

Noge, Yoko & Jazz Me Bluesband – “Yoko Meets John ” – [Jazz Me Blues]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   Blues, CD

Slow saucy striptease bloooz w/ some jazz touches.
Playful, patter between Yoko Noge and John Watson:
She brings breathy broken English and fixed
resolve, he adds well-timed humour via his lyrics
and his leering trombone. Still all innuendoes are
PTA-approved, Watson and Sonny Seals (t.sax) both
teach music in Chicago public schools after all.
Yoko’s “Sister Persistent” stands out w/ some nice
sturdy bass from Tatsu Aoki and some cool rapidfire
Japanese lyrics reminiscent of her Toe 2000 work.
Watson really adds some warmth, and you’ve got to
admire Yoko’s pluck + vamp + pursuit of her dream.
Keep an eye out for her.

Drake, Nick – “Tanworth-In-Arden 1967/68 ” – [Anthology]

Thurston Hunger   9/4/2005   12-inch, Blues

A bootleg album of home-cassette recordings
that probably should never have been made,
but then Nick Drake probably should never
have left this earth so abruptly, so young
and by his own hand. So we’re dourly blessed
with these 18 sparse solo selections. (Well
“All My Trials” actually features his sister
gently chiming in with him) The warble of
the tape (even bleeding through faintly at
times) add to the haunting quality here. I
remain amazed at the gentle quality of Nick’s
voice masking such a troubled soul.

Lead Belly – “Bridging Leadbelly ” – [Rounder Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   Blues, CD

Between 1935 and his death in 1949, Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly) had one of the most prolific recording and performing careers of any rural Southern bluesman. So it is not too surprising that the intrepid folks at Rounder have managed to uncover some previously-unreleased recordings from this American legend. The first session here (tracks 1-12), recorded in 1938 for the BBC in New York City, features many of Leadbelly’s standards in remarkably clean studio recordings. Of particular note are the a cappella renditions (tracks 3, 4, 5, 9) and the ONLY known recording of Leadbelly yodelling (track 2). The second session (tracks 13-17), dating from 1946, was recorded with a wire recorder at a party in Salt Lake City. These tracks are of significantly inferior sound quality but successfully capture Leadbelly’s relaxed delivery and his interaction with the live audience. Positioned back-to-back, these two “audio snapshots” create a third portrait of Lead Belly as an artist that was continually refining his craft.

?5? Royales, The ?Dedicated To You? [Sing (King)] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   12-inch, Blues

The ‘5? Royales, an R&B group originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recorded these 12 songs while signed to King Records. This is a bootleg replica put out by ‘The Official Record Company? of Denmark back in 1988. The King label is covered up with a made-up ‘Sing? label.

The ‘5? Royales started out as a gospel group called The Royal Sons Quintet but changed names and switched to a more secular doo-wop/jump blues sound while signed to Apollo Records and then to a heavier R&B sound while at King Records. Throughout their career the strong gospel influence is always present.

This record presents The ‘5? Royales at the peak of their powers. This is mainly due to Lowman Pauling‘s excellent songwriting and guitar playing combined with the group’s effortless harmonizing. During these later recording sessions for King, Mr. Pauling really started letting loose on his Les Paul. Check out the guitar on Think and Messin’ Up as well as the call-and-response with John Tanner‘s vocals on Say It.

Labelmate James Brown had a hit with Think in 1960, and The Shirelles and The Mamas and Papas had a hit with Dedicated To The One I Love. Check out the originals.
–Hunter Gatherer

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Chor – “Great Day ” – [Self Produce]

David Richoux   1/16/2005   Blues, CD

This recording of gospel music goes directly back to the roots of pre and post slavery days 150 years ago. Even without the organ, drums, guitar and bass they normally use this award winning Oakland choir still is powerful and beautiful with classic arrangements of “Negro” Spirituals. Some you may recognize (Tracks 2, 8, 12,16) and many more are obscure but still worth a listen. Some are up and joyous, others are way down and soulful. You will hear some elements that helped lead to the development of blues and jazz but these works also stand on their own merit as a great American artform. Come on and Wade in the Water, Children! *review by David Richoux

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