"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
24 tracks, 70 minutes. While this collection might not begin with the very first example of amplified blues guitar in the Windy City, it's a marvelous compilation spanning seven years and a wide swath of artists with distinct and differing styles. While most of the titles are available elsewhere, the expense to gather everything here could be cost-prohibitive to beginning collectors as well as hardened veterans. What is most important is the focus on those who played major roles in laying a foundation that is still standing today.
Opening honors go to Big Bill Broonzy's guitar and vocals backed by Big Maceo's lowdown piano and Tyrell Dixon's crisp percussion on You Got The Best Go from February of 1945, and Memphis Minnie's tough playing shows up on both Killer Diller Blues from 1946 and Night Watchman Blues dating to 1950, which offers biting and distorted guitar. Harpist Jazz Gillum fronts a small outfit featuring the highly under-rated skills of Willie James Lacey for Roll Dem Bones and the infectious swing of You Got To Run Me Down from 1946 and '47 respectively, while pianist Eddie Boyd's I Can Trust My Baby shows another lesser-known talent with Sam Casimir's fluent fills. Two standout deliveries from Robert Jr. Lockwood come in the form of Pearly B and Dust My Broom, both cut at a March 1951 session with torrid support from Sunnyland Slim and Alfred Wallace and it's obvious just how accomplished Lockwood was; his creative and highly distorted guitar work shows elements of jazz while the tight unit thumps along behind him. Robert Nighthawk's Black Angel Blues stems from an Aristocrat recording in 1949 with his delicate and perfectly-placed slide efforts well to the fore, and while Arthur Crudup never startled anyone with his guitar work, his rhythm playing is solid during both 1949's I Don't Know It and 1951's Too Much Competition. Muddy Waters' pairing of You're Gonna Miss Me and Honey Bee both feature acidic bottleneck and Big Crawford's upright bass while second guitar chores go to Baby Face Leroy on the first and Little Walter on the second, whose incredibly disruptive guitar is shown to great effect on Muskadine Blues, and while he was rarely recorded in this setting, his Chicago gem from January of 1950 is most welcome. Jimmy Rogers is afforded a tandem with the oft-covered Goin' Away baby from 1950 and the stellar Money, Marbles And Chalk, while Little Walter's harp is heard offering solid fills on both. Another artist who certainly deserves more recognition is John Brim whose Trouble In The Morning is a fine contemplative blues from 1951 and the set closes with J.B. Lenoir's (I Wanna) Play A Little While and Korea Blues, the latter with rambunctious guitar.
When amplifiers began infiltrating Chicago's booming blues scene, it was out of necessity to be heard above the loud, patron-filled taverns that dotted the landscape just as much as it was a reflection of the crowded surroundings of the city itself, and the years covered in this set show a number of respected artists perhaps at their peak. Also included are tracks by Roosevelt Sykes with Leonard "Baby Doo" Caston, Johnny Shines, Floyd Jones, and Johnny Young, whose mandolin work in association with Johnny Williams' superb rhythm guitar on Let Me Ride Your Mule is stellar. Informative liner notes are in both French and English and the set also offers a well-detailed discography, although the cuts are not in exact chronological order. www.epm.fr offers a wide selection of blues CD's by Curtis Jones, Joe McCoy, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree and a host of others.
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