Honeyboy Edwards is like a Georgie Jessel character of the bluesworld. Jessel was a long-lived vaudeville comic of limited ability, but a perennial favorite on variety shows, where he often got a large audience ovation simply for showing up, still being able to breathe and crank out a few familiar one-liners.
Now 85, Edwards has a long history of keeping company with some of the fabled bluesmen of yore: Robert Johnson, Big Joe Williams and Little Walter were all men he said he's traveled with and tells stories about in his popular concert appearances. More of a raconteur than accomplished musician, Edwards can talk for hours about his encounters and travels with famous musicians, and some of his stories even have the ring of truth.
Not a fancy guitar player, Edwards comes from the delta rhythm based tradition and many of his accompaniments heard on this recording, made in 1979, are variations of walking boogie figures in the key of E. He hits a slide lick or two, plays harp in a rack on one number, but there's not a wide range of picking displayed. Vocally he ranges from laconic to casual, overall he's a journeyman performer.
His material is drawn from across the spectrum--there are down home numbers from Charlie Patton ("Pony Blues"), Robert Johnson ("Sweet Home Chicago") and Robert Petway ("Catfish Blues"); covers of Chicago styled pieces by Magic Sam ("Things Gonna Be Alright") and Howling Wolf ("Ride With Me Tonight"); and R&B flavored numbers by Little Junior Parker ("Next Time You See Me"--Edwards changes the lines "you a wrong doing woman/another queen is on the throne" to the more plebeian "another queen is on the phone") and Bobby Bland ("Further On Up The Road"). Edwards does capture the essence of the tunes he covers, if not the specifics, and the listening is easy.
Folkways does their usual fine job with the booklet, 24 pages of biography, commentary and lyrics. Overall, if you need to have one of Honeyboy's albums, here's a good representation. This is as good as it's ever gonna get.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tony Glover, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
Click button to join
our mailing list!