Originally appearing in LP form, in 1971 on the Ahura Mazda label, this Robert Pete Williams CD on Fat Possum should be a welcomed addition to many fans of blues. Born in 1914 in Zachary, LA, Williams shot and killed a man in 1956, and despite claiming it was in self-defense, he was sentenced to a life term in Angola prison, where ethnomusicologist, Dr. Harry Oster, found in him in 1958. Williams recorded for Oster, who helped get Williams a formal pardon in 1959 after serving three-and-a-half years, later for Chris Strachwitz and his Arhoolie label, while other recordings appeared on a number of domestic and import imprints throughout the 1960's and 70's.
One of the finer points of Robert Pete Williams' music was his disregard for 'regular time' and form, and indeed, tunings. Playing in a 'free-form' style set him apart from myriad other artists during the folk revival of the 1960's, but also may have been a reason why he didn't garner the full accolades deserving of his talents. This CD, a straight reissue, features Williams in a couple of settings, recorded in 1970 during late December. Whether playing acoustic or electric, standard or bottleneck style, Williams was a captivating performer as shown on the 11 tracks here. His "Railroad Blues" is a stunning piece of work featuring a highly rhythmic guitar pattern and plaintive vocals, while "Rub Me Until My Love Comes Down" runs off a charged riff not unlike John Lee Hooker. "Goodbye Slim Harpo" is a tribute to Williams' friend, James Moore, who died in early 1970, and shows superb slide playing. "You Used To Be A Sweet Cover Shaker But You Ain't No More" is worth the price of admission and "Sweep My Floor" features superb guitar technique and a slow, smoldered vocal.
Masterfully played, recorded, and now reissued, this slice of Robert Pete Williams is the real deal. After his pardon from prison, Williams enjoyed a better life playing the coffee houses, folk rooms, and various blues festivals, both here and abroad, and slowed down in the late 1970's with his health a concern. Robert Pete Williams passed away December 31st, in 1980 at the age of 66, but thankfully, there are a number of fine discs available, including this one. For more info on this and other fine releases, check out the www.fatpossum.com website.
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