David 'Honeyboy' Edwards is one of a few remaining living links to Robert Johnson. Edwards was actually with Johnson in Three Forks, MS, the night Johnson took ill, which seemingly caused his death a few days later, and Honeyboy also ran across fabled Delta masters, the likes of Tommy Johnson, Son House, Willie Brown, Charley Patton, and others. That's enough of a story in itself, but Edwards has also been well-documented in the annals of blues recording thanks to the efforts of a number of producers and aficionados. He first experienced the record making process in 1942 for Alan Lomax, who was in the Delta cutting 78's for the Library of Congress. His next opportunity saw nine years elapse when he waxed "Build A Cave" for a shoestring label, as 'Mr. Honey' in 1951, then a mere four sides for Chess in 1953, which were shelved until "Drop Down Mama," a 1970 Chess Vintage Series LP, came out. Since that time, Honeyboy has made a number of fine recordings, and these sessions, done in the mid-1970's, are worthwhile.
Comprised of 14 tracks, recorded at then Living Blues Headquarters, actually Jim and Amy O'Neal's Chicago apartment, and Bruce Iglauer's cellar, which doubled as Alligator Records' storage facility, Edwards appears solo on half with plenty of bottleneck work, some racked harp, and strong Delta rhythms. Walter Horton, an old friend of Honeyboy, added his instantly recognizable, deep harp tones to four cuts, and Eddie El, a well-respected guitarist, stopped in for three others. On his own, Edwards' versions of two Patton classics, "Pony Blues" and "Banty Rooster," are superb, and his covers of "Big Fat Mama" and "Big Road Blues," from Tommy Johnson, are also fine. Howlin' Wolf's "Ride With Me Tonight," featuring El, is loaded with distorted guitar, as are "Things Have Changed" and "The Woman I'm Loving," both Honeyboy originals based on floating lyrics. Horton's masterful use of restraint and huge tone are well represented on "Sad & Lonesome," "Take Me In Your Arms," "I Feel So Good Today," and Johnson's "Big Road Blues," while Honeyboy's voice, though not the most forceful, is potent yet relaxed throughout the proceedings. "I'm A Country Man," although credited to Edwards, is in reality a McKinley Morganfield gem, and finds Honeyboy playing some Muddy-like slide.
The disc clocks in at 50 minutes, and considering the recording locations, Peter B. Lowry, who recorded, co-produced, and mixed these sessions (originally for his own Trix label), did a well-rounded job. The track listing is somewhat confused, which might leave the novice listener wondering why there's no audible harp on "I Feel So Good Today," which does feature Eddie El's guitar work. The solution is simple, it's actually "Things Have Changed." Liner notes come from Lowry, Amy O'Neal, and Steve Schoen, whose inane ramblings (which still leave me curious as to why they were even included) have more to do with his own accomplishments, and a ceremony for Willie Dixon in Chicago, than those of Honeyboy Edwards, but it's the music contained that matters most. What is here is Honeyboy Edwards, in the company of a couple friends, who add considerably to this CD's appeal. Edwards work for Michael Frank's Earwig label is also well-worth searching out. For more information on this release, you can send email to: email@example.com or check out the website by logging on to: www.32Records.com
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