A few years back I picked up Barrie Lee Pearson's book "Virginia Piedmont Blues: The Lives And Art of Two Virginia Bluesmen" which described the lives of two musicians who performed in the Piedmont style. Getting hold of recordings by the first of these, John Cephas, was not a problem, but Archie Edwards? Now, with the release of "The Toronto Sessions," you can finally get hold of a generally available CD of one of the finest examples of Piedmont style blues.
Edwards preferred to play and spread the word about the blues, rather than make recordings. He carried on the tradition of his heroes Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Mississippi John Hurt. Rather than just recycle material, however, he used a process he described as quilting, which involved taking existing material and adapting and extending it in ways that put the Archie Edwards stamp on it.
The opening track, "Had A Little Girl," is the first song that Edwards really wrote--the later song, "Pittsburgh Blues" is about the same girl!--and it highlights Edwards talents as a musician and a songwriter. Although Edwards was close on 68 when he recorded this material, he still had nimble fingers, and a fine voice to match. The next couple of tracks pay tribute to Edwards' heroes: "One Thin Dime Blues" is an old Blind Lemon Jefferson tune, and "I'm Down Today" evolved from working with Mississippi John Hurt.
There are a few well know tunes here, including Bo Carter's "Sitting On Top Of The World," Jefferson's "Easy Rider" and "Meet Me In The Bottom" which has recorded by Buddy Moss but has appeared in various guise over the years as "Boots and Shoes" and "Running Shoes." The overarching style is pretty individualistic, however, although Edwards does admit to doing a Robert Johnson when he plays slide on "I Called My Baby Long Distance," and "Take Me Back Baby" is recognizably a John Hurt song.
"The Toronto Sessions" is a welcome addition to the sadly small legacy of recordings by the late Archie Edwards. Edwards was a fine exponent of the Piedmont style who played his part in helping to keep the blues alive down the years. The CD has been nicely packaged by Northern Blues (www.NorthernBlues.com), and the liner notes by Barrie Lee Pearson help to ensure that "The Toronto Sessions" stands as a fitting tribute to Edwards the man and the musician. The liner notes say that there is enough material for another CD, so watch this space!
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