This is a stunning and ridiculously satisfying disc from an artist who belongs in any discussion of slide guitar, past or present. Casey Bill Weldon remains an enigma, regardless of his stunning abilities. It is believed that he was born in Pine Bluff, AR around 1909, but exact dating has never been documented and his death has never been solved either. The evidence in this 74 minute wonder from the folks at Catfish proves his remarkable proficiency as a guitarist, and he oddly adapted the less-common Hawaiian approach of laying the instrument (a National steel-body produced for the growing interest in Hawaiian guitar playing) flat on his lap while using his slide from above the neck. He was known on record as the 'Hawaiian Guitar Wizard' - and after hearing the 24 tracks assembled on this gem, there's little wonder left as to why.
"Guitar Swing" offers a healthy cross-section of straight pop and jazz fusing but it's the glowing blues that drives the point across as to how good Weldon was with his guitar, and the delicious opener, "Two Timin' Woman" serves proof quickly. Assisted by a rolling piano, Casey Bill manages subtle trills and slurs behind a deep and earthy voice. The title cut gives a great glimpse at the speed and accuracy with which Weldon could play and he gets some fine help from a couple of other talented six-stringers while "Front Door Blues" slows the pace for some solid bottleneck blues. The similarly-titled "Back Door Blues" will give Little Walter supporters reason to question claims that 'Tell Me Mama' was Jacobs' original; cut in September of 1936, Weldon's vocals are a near-exact blueprint for later versions by Washboard Sam and Jazz Gillum, never mind the supposed harmonica wizard who later recorded it in 1952, and one of Weldon's common traits steps up here with his penchant for yelling out "yeah" during instrumental passages and brief singing vacancies. "My Stove Won't Work" offers up great comical lyrics over searing slide work while his highly successful "WPA Blues" bemoans the troubles of government-installed assistance programs, and whether or not the true wordsmith for "Somebody Changed The Lock On My Door," Weldon's version certainly was the pattern later used by many others, and his falsetto vocals and the occasional " ooh well, well" bring Peetie Wheatstraw to mind. Subtle and sweet slide opens the lazy and loping "I'm A Stranger" while jazz influences pop up in "Arlena" with buzzing clarinet from Arnett Nelson (also the vocalist here) over the chugging guitar rhythm and careening bottleneck and he gets back to business with "Casey Bill's New WPA Blues," a drilling blues with more delightful work. The schmaltzy feel of "Can't You Remember" is offset by some highly effective playing and more vocal interjections that will raise the corners of anyone's mouth, and the lowdown feel of "I'm Just A Bad Man" is sufficient proof that Weldon's blues were real and heartfelt. Add to the mix a rousing "I Believe I'll Make A Change," the early country flavors of "I Believe You're Cheatin' On Me" complete with saloon-style piano, the blazing "Red Hot Blues," and the utterly divine guitar behind on "The Big Boat" and you have a top-shelf disc.
Catfish has issued some of the finest blues discs going and Casey Bill Weldon's "Guitar Swing" is another class act. Highly rewarding sound throughout makes it more than a pleasure to kick back with while notes by Casey Smith's give what scant information is available on this little-known wonder. Session details offer the names of those who accompanied Weldon (where documented) and the one miniscule knock is that dates for the recordings are lumped together as being cut between 1935 and 1938, but those concerns will only deter the most hardcore of blues scholars and Weldon-ites. Web info is available by going to www.catfishrecords.co.uk where you can pore over a large assortment of delectable reissues of early blues by a cast of greats like Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson (either I or II), Champion Jack Dupree, Barbecue Bob Hicks and Laughing Charley, and plenty more.
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