a few reviews

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a few reviews

Postby bighollowtwang » Mon Feb 14, 2005 5:12 pm

Clearly Mr. Blueswriter is the King of the Reviews Section, but I'll try my hand at writing a few of my own. They're not new releases, just stuff I picked up recently.

HENRY TOWNSEND and FRIENDS (Catfish Records)

http://img.afnt.co.uk/3218238_t.jpg

(sorry, couldn't find a bigger picture).

This CD contains 17 tracks by the great St. Louis bluesman Henry Townsend and 7 tracks by J.D. Short including two under the name Joe Stone.
Personally I am not 100% convinced Joe Stone and J.D. Short are the same person due to some stylistic and vocal differences, but what really gets me is the inappropriate title of this CD - Townsend and Short were hardly friends: Short stabbed Townsend in the back over an undisclosed dispute, and Townsend returned the favor by shooting Short in the testicles (I'm not joking).
It would seem appropriate to include the two known recordings of Henry Spaulding, who was a major influence on Townsend and other St. Louis musicians.
Henry Townsend sticks to modal sounding one-chord pieces in open E tuning which come off as much more sophisticated than you would expect on account of his inventive lead work, full of violent rhythmic string snapping and unexpected bends.
J.D. Short (who sometimes worked with Big Joe Williams) offers a much more archaic sound, his open G guitar playing sounds more primitive than Townsend's but his vocal style is really outstanding, downright scary at times.

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JOE McCOY The Story of Kansas Joe 1929-1944 (Blues Collection)

http://www.jessedeane-freeman.com/zLRC% ... rlie15.jpg

One of the more underrated blues musicians of the pre-war blues era was Joe McCoy. Often overshadowed by the fame of his wife Memphis Minnie, Joe stayed out of the spotlight by being an accompanist rather than a soloist, like his brother Charlie McCoy. Joe recorded a fairly wide range of material, from uptown Harlem Hamfats tunes to really downhome sounding stuff as "The Mississippi Mudder" - two of the tracks included here that he recorded under the latter name are covers of Skip James and Tommy Johnson accompanied by his brother, outstanding examples of how country blues duets should be arranged. His duets with Memphis Minnie (who is featured on vocals and lead guitar on several tracks) are lyrically inventive (Joe wrote the lyrics to most of Minnie's early songs) and have an incredible rhythmic drive that only two National guitars tuned to open G can provide.
My only complaint is that there are no Harlem Hamfats tracks on this collection, they would have added a dimension of stylistic eclecticism that would help illustrate Joe's versatility.

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BIG JOE WILLIAMS and the Stars of the Mississippi Blues (JSP)

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Now this is truly a fantastic collection. This 5-CD set features two full discs of early Big Joe Williams in various settings - from mid-30's tracks featuring accompanists such as Henry Townsend (see above) or Robert Nighthawk (then known as Robert Lee McCoy), to small combos with drums and bass and the harmonica of Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson I, to his ferociously amplified '51 sessions, 50 tracks in all. Big Joe's idiosyncratic and inventive style of playing works well in any context and features some truly flashy Charley Patton flavored string snapping. A must-have for any fan of Big Joe Williams.
But wait, there's more --- MUCH more.
Discs three and four feature 43 tracks from Tommy McClennan, plus you get 12 tracks from his associate Robert Petway. These two often overlooked musicians shared a rough guitar and singing style which is quite infectuous and driving and represent the most gutbucket primitive side of the 40's "Bluebird Sound" - both offer a version of the well-known "Catfish Blues" (with Petway assumed to be the originator of the piece) along with other stomping, driving Mississippi anthems.
And then there's even more - the final CD includes the 11 songs Honeyboy Edwards recorded for Alan Lomax in 1942 and represent some of the most sophisticated Delta Blues guitar playing ever recorded. For those of you accustomed to a tired octogenarian Honeyboy these tracks will be a revelation. On these recordings Honeyboy's playing is nimble as can be, peeling off amazingly modern sounding guitar riffs on every song except for the a-capella version of "You Gotta Roll."
But wait - there's still more! The final disc concludes with 7 tracks from the obscure guitarist Willie "Poor Boy" Lofton recorded in '34 and '35, the last two of which feature the piano of Black Bob. At times Lofton displays the strong influence of Tommy Johnson but is versatile enough to include upbeat hokum such as "It's Killing Me" in his repertoire.
Considering that you get a staggering SIX HOURS of music, the JSP set is very reasonably priced and is a must-have for any fan of Big Joe Williams and Delta Blues.
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RE: a few reviews

Postby blueswriter » Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:39 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Feb-14-05 AT 07:01 PM (EST)]Nice reviews Zak. I agree that the Big Joe Williams/Mississippi Blues box is killer, and well-worth JSP's budget price. One not to be missed. I haven't got that paricular Joe McCoy disc you reviewed but I've got a couple others. By the way, I found a bigger pic of the Henry Townsend disc at CD Universe (one I reviewed when it came out - Catfish was bought up, by Snapper, I think)...

http://cover6.cduniverse.com/MuzeAudioA ... 395423.jpg
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