Detroit Blues - JSP

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Detroit Blues - JSP

Postby blueswriter » Wed Mar 02, 2005 4:10 am

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Mar-01-05 AT 11:32 PM (EST)]Detroit Blues - Blues From The Motor City 1938-1934
Various Artists
JSP (2004) 7736

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 544129.jpg

4 CDs, 96 tracks, 295 minutes. Essential. There's little doubt that when discussions center on Post-war Blues, Chicago perhaps stands as the premier topic. While there were many active locales in the later Pre-war years and immediate Post-war years; Memphis, Houston, New York City, and Los Angeles, among others, the Windy City gets more attention than almost any of the other recording centers. Detroit itself was a fine place to make records and the Motor City boasted many fine artists, a number of which are to be found on JSP's recent 4-CD box set. Disc one is devoted to guitarists Calvin Frazier (who traveled with Robert Johnson) and Sampson Pittman with all tracks dating from 1938 as Library Of Congress recordings. Frazier offers the first 13 cuts (backed by Pittman's guitar) and although Robert Johnson's influence is clearly evident, there are strains of Peetie Wheatstraw, Kokomo Arnold, Tampa Red and other Pre-war masters. However, Frazier does not come across as a simple or simply-derivative artist as the four minute instrumental, Blues, aptly displays. Other gems include I'm The Highway Man, The Dirty Dozens, This Old World's In A Tangle, She's A Double-Crossin' Woman and much more, plus there are a few interesting interview segments with Frazier. Sampson Pittman is equally illuminated with his gruff voice and considerable bottleneck skills on John Henry, the stunning I Been Down In The Circle Before, Highway 61 Blues, Joe Louis, Welfare Blues, and the stark Levee Camp Story. Disc two is a sharp detour from the Pre-war approach as it's given over entirely to John Lee Hooker and his highly-amplified guitar. Recorded in 1952-53, Hooker plows through Rock Me Mama, It Hurts Me So, I Got Eyes For You, Cool Little Car, Stuttering Blues and much more. John Lee gets varied backing, from Eddie Kirkland's guitar in tow with Hooker's on a handful of tracks, to rocking full-band workouts complete with Boogie Woogie Red's rolling piano and Thomas Whitehead's drumming. If there's any question as to how incredible Hooker was in the immediate Post-war years, My Baby Don't Love Me, with its crushing guitar is an appropriate starting point, but the rest of this disc is easily as convincing. Baby Boy Warren, one of the most clever songwriters in Detroit's rich musical history (as well as that of blues) stands out on disc three. A fine guitarist and singer with an incredible sense of phrasing, Warren has 19 tracks, each one a treat for its vivid imagery and wry twisting of the pen, Nervy Woman Blues, Please Don't Think I'm Nosey, Forgive Me Darling, Don't Want No Skinny Woman, and My Special Friend Blues are all highly worthwhile, and in addition there are a handful of cuts where Warren is joined by Sonny Boy Williamson II playing thick and rich harmonica (amplified in this setting, a rarity) on Sanafee, Hello Stranger, Chicken, Baby Boy Blues, and Chuck-A-Luck. Eddie Kirkland hands in the final seven tracks on the third disc, a few with John Lee Hooker in tow (perhaps returning a favor), and proves himself a compelling artist on It's Time For My Lovin' To Be Done, That's All Right, the ragged No Shoes with heavily distorted guitar, and a take-off on Baby Boy Warren's Please Don't Think I'm Nosey. Disc four might well prove to be the highlight for many listeners as it includes a wide variety of names who are little more than asterisks in the annals of blues. Eddie Burns, Henry Smith, L.C. Green, Sam Kelly, Robert Richard, Walter Mitchell, Joe Von Battle (!), Playboy Fuller (later known as Louisiana Red), John Brim, Big Maceo, and the Detroit Count all play fairly equal parts rounding out this excellent set, and while their names are unknown for the most to many, their contributions added yet another creative chapter on blues recording in Detroit. Standouts are Playboy Fuller's Gonna Play My Guitar, an open challenge to Chicago's king Muddy Waters, and Sugar Cane Highway, another amplified slide gem, and Detroit Count's masterful two-part, piano-only Hastings Street Opera, an ode to the finer drinking establishments in the Motor City, including one that offers the only steak sandwich in town that tastes like fish! A few minor gripes include sound quality on some of this material, but given much of its rarity, it is understandable. Finally, this set was not compiled in chronological order (which might seem petty), but it would have made for better listening by interspersing the lesser-known artists with those more recognized. However, with an easily reachable budget price and more than four hours of music, there's little to complain about. While Chicago still stands tall as the recording center in the immediate Post-war years, Detroit itself hosted a wealth of talent, much of it available in this extraordinary set.

http://www.jsprecords.com/

Navigating the JSP website can be taxing, but it does offer plenty of great blues. Locating this title directly through them proved fruitless, but I'm sure it's available. You can also purchase this and most everything else reviewed in these regular columns by hitting your favorite on-line retail outlet.

© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: Detroit Blues - JSP

Postby bighollowtwang » Wed Mar 02, 2005 7:28 am

Calvin Frazier sounds exactly like those slowed down Robert Johnson records. He did some interesting electric stuff with a band later on.

I guess I'm going to have to pick this one up. I just picked up the JSP Texas box with the complete recordings of Henry Thomas, Black Ace, Oscar Woods, Willie Reed, Little Hat Jones, Ramblin' Thomas and Jesse "Babyface" Thomas, as well as a few guys I hadn't heard (Coley Jones, Pete Harris and Smith Casey).
Also have to put in a good word for JSP's 4-CD Blind Lemon Jefferson box which features the best sound I've heard for BLJ's stuff.
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RE: Detroit Blues - JSP

Postby blueswriter » Wed Mar 02, 2005 10:58 pm

Zak... JSP has a boatload of stuff out and the killer about these box sets (the ones you mentioned and lots of others) is that they are all priced incredibly well. When you can land better than four hours of blues (and often more) for what two new discs (maybe 60 minutes each) will cost you, there's almost no comparison. As always though, it depends on personal taste. Let us know your thoughts if you grab the Detroit box set.
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