John Lee Williamson, better known as Sonny Boy Williamson I, is credited as being the bluesman responsible for getting the harmonica into the musician's union. Williamson had an approach that brought the instrument its due recognition, and in turn, influenced countless purveyors. While there were many players that preceded him into recording studios, his music is a direct link from its country origins to the rocking sounds of amplified Chicago Blues that began in the later 1940's. Williamson's span as a recording artist ran from 1937 until his death 11 years later, in 1948, a victim of a Chicago street robbery. His originals, many now standards, have been carried on by a wide range of artists such as Ten Years After, Gov't Mule, Jonny Lang, and others. With a dry, rasping sound from his harps and twisted vocals from a speech impediment, he sounds as fresh and original today as he must have back when he was running Chicago as the leading harp man in town.
Joined by many top players from the 'Bluebird' stables, some of Williamson's best work is featured, including "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," "I Been Dealing With The Devil," "Train Fare Home," "She Don't Love Me That Way," "Early In The Morning," "Stop Breaking Down," "Better Cut That Out," and the classic title cut which spurred Jimmy Rogers to wax "Sloppy Drunk" for Chess years later. Sonny Boy's harmonica work was years ahead of its time and shows much of why he was such a major figure to the many that followed him; Little Walter Jacobs, Rice Miller, and Billy Boy Arnold, included. His vocals are pure and unadulterated, while his tongue-tied style is a key ingredient to his incredible phrasing. There are very few around who can successfully imitate this master.
This 2-CD set covers 40 tracks, just under two hours of playing time, and features informative liner notes from blues guru, Neil Slaven. Snapper/Recall have again come up with a winning combination with excellent sound quality throughout, and a bargain price tag, making this a hard offer to turn down. "Bring Another Half Pint" is widely available on-line, but you can check with your local retailer, although you may need to order it. www.snappermusic.com is a little odd to navigate, but once there, you can look over their entire catalog.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, 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.
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