Still More...

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Still More...

Postby b dub » Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:32 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Dec-22-04 AT 03:39 PM (EST)]Various Artists
Down Home Blues Classics 1943-1953
Boulevard Vintage (2004) BVBCD 1003 ... 3pvo5g.jpg

4 CDs, 100 tracks, 273 minutes. Absolutely essential. It's virtually impossible to aptly review a box set of this magnitude without writing a complete treatise on Texas, Chicago or Detroit, Memphis, or East Coast Blues, so rather than put everyone to sleep with miniscule details, suffice it to say this is an essential addition to almost any blues collection. Although a good amount of this material has seen the light of day on various discs scattered across vast catalogs from varying labels (some long out-of-print), Boulevard Vintage has made some serious noise in the blues reissue market with Down Home Blues Classics 1943-1953. And while the box itself isn't enormous, or even large, it's further proof to the old adage that big things come in small packages. ... _disc1.jpg

Disc one, entitled Texas - Throw A Little Boogie, gathers a cast of characters with an amazing assortment of styles, and most of the featured performers are too often overlooked in blues history. Frankie Lee Sims' Cross Country Blues is as stark as it gets with only Sims ringing on an amplied guitar while a string bass plunks along adding depth, but for truly amplified (and heavily distorted) blues, J.D. Edwards' Hobo is a stone killer as it sounds as if his guitar and amplifier could have burst into flames following his recording. Wright Holmes, barely an asterisk in the history books, was not only a dazzling guitarist with a completely unique approach, but a vocalist as gritty as anyone who came before or after him, and his Alley Special is a much sought after item among collectors. Pianists are well-documented in the Texas set with Leroy Ervin's Rock Island Blues, Thunder Smith's Little Mama Boogie, and Lee Hunter's Back To Santa Fe, but Dr. Hepcat's Hattie Green should be pure delight even for those who claim no affinity to blues - his fun-and-good-times style is infectious. More fine guitar blues comes from the likes of Buddy Chiles on Mistreated Blues, sounding not unlike Brownie McGhee, and Willie Lane's sparkling Too Many Women Blues, which owes an obvious debt to Jesse "Baby Face" Thomas, who is sadly absent from the entire collection. Harmonica is also represented with Sonny Boy Johnson's Quinsella - although no one is willing to bet that's the name of the woman he's singing to. Also heard are Lil' Son Jackson, L.C. Williams, Johnny Beck, Charley Bradix, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Soldier Boy Houston, whose strong and repetitve Western Rider Blues is practically worth the price of the set by itself. ... _disc2.jpg

Moving on geographically, disc two, Chicago & Detroit - High & Lonesome, combines a wide group of familiar names, but there's plenty here that's rare and under-represented. The twin harmonica work of Walter Mitchell and Robert Richard is an interesting and successful combination on both Stop Messing Around and Cadillac Woman, and Eddie Burns offers his Notoriety Woman with a nod to John Lee "Sonny Boy I" Williamson. Little Walter, Snooky Pryor, and Junior Wells get into the act with more rich harp playing on Mean Old World, Boogie, and Cut That Out, and Robert Henry's Something's Wrong With My Little Machine is equally solid. Big Maceo's Big City Blues finds Little Johnny Jones (a disciple of Maceo's) on piano along with Tampa Red's recognizable guitar fills, and Robert Nighthawk's Crying Won't Help You shines with splendid slide work. Tony Hollins' Crawlin' King Snake is down and dirty with a memorable vocal, and for other rarities, there's Morris Pejoe's Tired Of Crying Over You, John Brim's It Was A Dream, Little Hudson's Looking For A Woman, and Baby Boy Warren's Please Don't Think I'm Nosey. Warren's sense of wittiness was always evident any time he recorded, and this track is as good an example as any... "I would like to ask some information - are you gonna make this town your home? May I extend my conversation or will I have to keep moving on?" Instantly worthwhile, and for anyone who thought Chuck Berry had a knack for fitting words and phrases together that rolled off the tongue easily, Baby Boy Warren's catalog is ripe with more fruit. In addition to those already mentioned, J.B. Lenoir, Floyd Jones, Rocky Fuller (Louisiana Red under an alias), Jimmy Rogers, Blue Smitty, Jimmy Reed, and Harvey Hill Jr. are all aboard. ... _disc3.jpg

Heading back below the Mason-Dixon line, disc three is Memphis & The South - Take A Little Chance which assembles more delectable Post-war blues from a wide variety of locales; St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, and Miami (there were blues artists there). Big Joe Williams kicks off the affair with She's A Married Woman, and his nine-string guitar still defies most normal brains with a capacity for understanding. Mr. Honey's Build Myself A Cave is none other than Honeyboy Edwards masquerading under an assumed name and Howlin' Wolf's How Many More Years has Ike Turner in tow on piano as Willie Johnson slashes away on guitar through an over-worked amplifier. Lost John Hunter, a Sun recording artist, is included with his Blind Bats band on the raw Schoolboy, as well as other Sun labelmates like Jimmy DeBerry with Take A Little Chance, and Walter Horton, whose Easy is a harmonica tour-de-force based on Ivory Joe Hunter's I Almost Lost My Mind. More quality cuts come from Stick Horse Hammond, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Papa Lightfoot, Luther Huff, Bobo Thomas, Elmore James, and more, but Pee Wee Hughes' Country Boy is a hands-down standout. If this wasn't actually Dr. Ross under another name, the two should have met, although based on aural evidence, it wouldn't be surprising if they looked like twins. Joe Hill Louis delivers his Western Union Man as Chicago Sunny Boy, Willie Love blazes through a stomping Seventy Four Blues with a young Little Milton on guitar, Earl Hooker offers his Sweet Angel, and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's Make A Little Love roars with a relaxed intensity and effortless swing, thanks in part to Sonny Boy's harp and Joe Willie Wilkins' guitar. There's also Tommy Lee, Clarence London, Edgar Blanchard, and more. ... _disc4.jpg

If you'll jump in the car, we'll head off and troll around disc four, New York & The East Coast States and Rub A Little Boogie to finish our journey. In the Pre-war years, the Eastern Seaboard was known for blues that was perhaps a bit more technically proficient - many of the guitarists from the Carolinas and further South to Atlanta were highly skilled fingerpickers. In the Post-war years, while many held on to the older styles, a good number of artists began to reflect a wide variety of influences from the Delta, Chicago, beyond. Dennis McMillan's Poor Little Angel, Pinetop Slim's Applejack Boogie, Big Boy Ellis' She's Gone, and Leroy Dallas' Your Sweet Man Blues show how blues began to cross more paths from records being distributed across growing cities with increasing populations. As much as the influence of Piedmont stylists can be heard in their songs, there was far more going on. But, there were also a number of artists active who retained the highly figurative early styles; Blind Willie McTell (Broke Down Engine Blues), Ralph Willis (Income Tax Blues), The Blues Boys (Worried Man Blues), and Curley Weaver (Ticket Agent). Others like Doug Quattlebaum, who could well have invented rockabilly, or Duke Bayou (Champion Jack Dupree as he's more commonly known), and Lazy Slim Jim displayed distinct touches that signified them as artists with definite East Coast flair, but for each time these artists cropped up on an Eastern label, there were others still who almost defied pigeon-holing. Willie Baker's Rumors About My Baby is fairly good evidence, but Square Walton's Gimme Your Bankroll Baby (with Mickey Baker's massive guitar tone) sounds like it could have been a Chicagoan who was lost in New York City, and Champion Jack Dupree's Shake Baby Shake from the Red Robin archives might spell New York as well, but the twin driving guitars of brothers Brownie and Stick McGhee went into the stratosphere with little more than a wave and goodbye to the earlier relaxed styles. Little David, John Tinsley, Skoodle-Dum-Doo & Sheffield, and Marylyn Scott have more to offer on this final disc in the set, as well as others.

In the end, whether your tastes run to the often erratic and highly enthusiastic Memphis style, or that of the Texas artists who could boogie with the best, or the increasingly loud and heavily rhythmic Chicago sort, or the East Coast artists who seemed to have a bit of everything going on by the time the mid-forties and early-fifties arrived, you'll find plenty to enjoy in this extremely well put together set from Boulevard Vintage. Each disc is lodged in a separate sleeve with recording details printed on the back, and Neil Slaven's liner notes are incredibly informative. He may be a jaded sort (but his depth in blues is unassailable) so it's not surprising that he offers his years of knowledge in the closing paragraph of the booklet... "Sadly, this was the last flowering of the blues in almost all its varieties. Since then, successive blues booms and standardization have reduced much of what is performed today to a bland porridge... Maybe one day some of the artists guilty of perpetrating the tragedy that is contemporary blues will discover this set and realize that they know little about the noble music. But you lucky people got there first." A fitting end to what some consider the final days of blues in all its original and untarnished glory. ... cd1003.htm

Chief Schabuttie Gilliame
Snakes Crawls At Night
Random Chance (2004) RCD 17 ... 515013.jpg

10 tracks, 47 minutes. Superb. For those wondering just who Chief Schabuttie Gilliame is, or what he sounds like, he was born in Egypt in September of 1925, and he sounds like a cross between Howlin' Wolf and Willie "Winehead" Williams. With a voice that can probably crack plaster and send people running for cover, he's definitely one to watch out for. Aided by an amazing array of talent including Kid Ramos, Louisiana Red, Johnny Rapp, Kirk Fletcher, Buddy Reed, Teddy Morgan, Junior Watson, and Rusty Zinn (all offering their guitar-playing skills), Tom Mahon and Matt Bishop (piano), Richard Innes and Chico Chism among others (on drums) and more stalwarts of todays blues scene, this CD smokes, swelters, smolders, and burns for an all too short 47 minutes. From slow creeping blues (Too Many Years and Snakes Crawls At Night) to humping shuffles (Big Legged Emma and Willie Brown's Blues), the Chief dazzles the aural senses with searing vocals while the band lays back providing everything necessary, and nothing more. For those who prefer their blues served raw and hot with crackling guitars and fat-toned harp (thanks to producer Bob Corritore), this CD is a hands-down winner with a take-no-prisoners attitude from start to finish.

Dan Treanor And Frankie Lee
African Wind
NorthernBlues (2004) 0023

15 tracks, 54 minutes. Excellent. It'd be easy enough to simply say "buy this CD as soon as possible" but it would hardly do justice to what's included. Frankie Lee's spellbinding voice has been heard for many years, and to put it mildly, he's one of the finest soul/blues vocalists on the planet. Dan Treanor's name may be less well-known but his ability to both make and play traditional African instruments is mind-boggling. For those wondering what direction blues might take in the 21st century, this could easily be the answer (as well as the remedy) many are looking for. There's little question that blues is at the heart of this recording, but the influx of African music sets this CD on a completely different level than almost anything else being done today. Over the many years blues has been played, handed down, passed on, and reinterpreted, many have perhaps lost sight of where the roots of blues are. This CD proves that the African influence, both can and should, be remembered and honored. From the opening of Missing to the closer, Cane Flute Soul, this is stunning and heartmoving music by one of the most-respected (although often under-rated) singers alive. Add to that a full band (keys, guitar, bass, and drums) and the masterful use of all the handmade instruments; the Diddley Bow (a one-stringed guitar), Ngoni (a four-or-seven stringed African banjo), Khalam (a six-stringed instrument with a large banjo-shaped body), Kalima (an African thumb piano), or the Djembe (an African hand drum), and you have something magical, mystical, moving, and essential.

Henry Gray And The Cats
Live In Paris
Lucky Cat (2004) 1004 ... t/3841.jpg

14 tracks, 56 minutes. Recommended. Henry Gray returns with another gripping CD on Lucky Cat with the fine and solid Live In Paris recorded in 2003 at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club. While the set is primarily blues standards (It Hurts Me Too/Sweet Home Chicago/Rock Me/Key To The Highway/Boogie In The Dark), Gray and the Cats dig into Jimmy Rogers' Out On The Road, Lloyd Price's Stagger Lee, and Gray's own Showers Of Rain in addition to Fannie Mae, What'd I Say, The Twist, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Tutti Frutti and Shake A Hand. At 79 years-young, Henry Gray still delivers the goods every time he sits behind the piano for a recording session, and for this one, Lil' Buck Sinegal plays superb guitar along with Andy Cornett's bass and Paul Christopher's drumming, while Brian Bruce adds tasty (if sometimes a bit too wheedly) harp. Great sound and a solid 'live' recording from one of blues' elder statesmen. Also available on DVD. ... uctID=3841

Greg "Fingers" Taylor
Hi Fi Baby
Warehouse Creek (2003) 0114 ... 501196.jpg

11 tracks, 44 minutes. Excellent. While Greg "Fingers" Taylor may not have the finest voice among today's crop of harp-playing frontmen, he's a worthy candidate of those delivering fat, thick sounding harmonica blues. With aid from guitarists Doug Deming and Troy Gonyea, piano from Mark Stevens, and a rhythm section of Jon Ross and Richard Innes, Taylor blows through an all-too-short 44 minute set covering Frankie Lee Sims (Hey Little Girl), Johnny Temple (Olds 98 Blues), Sam Myers (Sleeping In The Ground), and Elmore James (Fine Little Mama) as well as nods to Jerry McCain and Eddy Clearwater. Produced by Kim Wilson (who adds blistering harp on a pair), who also garners a tip of the hat for assembling the tight backing unit, this is certainly well worth adding to your shelves. Greg "Fingers" Taylor manages to rip it up on the 1950s rockers and take it in the alley for the grinders in a lowdown blowdown harmonica blast.

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith & the Juke Joint Rockers
Bluesin' It
Electro-Fi (2004) 3385

14 tracks, 63 minutes. Highly recommended. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith has a blues pedigree most others can only imagine having drummed behind Muddy Waters for years, as well as countless other contributions over a career that's been rolling for five decades. He's showing no signs of slowing down and Bluesin' It proves that solidly. Joined by high-caliber sidemen like Bob Stroger, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, Jack DeKeyzer and others, Smith lays a shuffling, driving backbeat as usual singing on four cuts (River's Invitation/Nobody Knows/Going Away Bay/Don't Think I'm Crazy) while other vocals are handled well by John Mays, DeKeyzer, Wayne, and Stroger. From hearty jump (Who Let The Cat Out), to raspy boogie (No. 9 Train), and slow rolling blues (Hard Times), this is a knock-down, drag-out brawl by one of the finest drummers in the business. Special mention for Al Lerman's wide-open harp work throughout.

© 2004 by Craig Ruskey
b dub
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Joined: Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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