Being the home of Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, Pinetop Perkins, Junior Wells, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Houston Stackhouse and others, Helena Arkansas holds a very special place in the history of Blues music. As Cannonball Records continues its blues journey throughout the country (with previous stops in Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville and Chicago the Helena recordings offer a different perspective. Just south of Memphis on the Mississippi River, Helena was not only home to many blues juke houses, brothels, and bars, it was also the home of radio station KFFA. Since 1941
KFFA has been broadcasting "King Buscuit Time" with regular appearances throughout the years before his death by Sonny Boy Williamson. For almost sixty years King Biscuit is still on the air.
Featured on this collection of Helena natives are: Dave Riley, John Weston and Frank Frost & Sam Carr. Of special note, these are the last recordings of Frank Frost who passed away In October of 1999. Along with Sam Carr's consistently understated foundation on drums Frank's harmonica on their four tracks provide some memorable and satisfying moments. Though the years have taken the edge from Frank's voice, it certainly has not affected his harp work. The songs played here were recorded just as they have been played in Delta jukes for many years.
John Weston is featured performing his own material on this release and a true old school harp player reminiscent of Sonny Boy and Frost. His observations and commentary are uniquely authentic and fit well into this regional collection.
Guitarist Dave Riley while never recorded until this disc has been a long-time session and backup musician during the fifties and sixties on the gospel circuit. During the seventies he backed some of the blues artists in Chicago and recently toured as a member of Byther Smith's group. On "Automobile" his Jimmy Reed influenced take on ladies and their preference for men with cars is a commentary we can all appreciate. While Helena has always had a place in Blues its introduction to a wider audience is long overdue. There are times when you want to return to a more rootsy and less "polished" sound-- this is it.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Terry Marshall, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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