Monday, August 06, 2007

Franklin & Baytop "Searching For Frank"

while Rick Franklin and Mike Baytop are two of the most accomplished acoustic blues artists in the Washington DC area. Franklin has been a staple of the area’s acoustic scene for over two decades including a lengthy partnership with Neil Harpe. Baytop was mentored by the late Archie Edwards and became President of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation that still operates out of Archie’s Barbershop, holding the weekly jam sessions that Archie had hosted along with workshops and concerts. He has recorded with DC native Mike Roach on harmonica and recently with projects associated with the Foundation. He has also grown as a guitarist and also plays bones, guitar and mandolin. Franklin & Baytop have partnered for a new disc, Searching For Frank for Patuxent Records, which takes its name from legendary Memphis Bluesman Frank Stokes whose twenties and thirties recordings for Victor and other labels in the company of Dan Sane and others were amongst the finest recordings of the pre-World War 11 era with the intricate interplay between the two and Stokes strongly delivered vocals. The album contains fourteen performances, several directly taken from recordings of Stokes and his associates but transformed so its no simple cover. Their intent was to evoke those classic duo recordings, but not to simply replicate the originals. Furthermore, several tracks have Baytop on harp and/or bones, so while all tracks are duos, not all are guitar duos. They make the music their own as Nobody’s Business transforms the Memphis references of Stokes’ Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do to Washington DC, as well as updates Stokes’ You Shall as You Shall Be Free, a tune that likely came out of the minstrel tradition. Other material includes Blind Blake’s Champagne Charlie, Pink Anderson’s I Got Mine, an adaptation of Furry Lewis’ Judge Harsh Blues (Jail House Blues) and the Mississippi Sheiks’ Stop and Listen Blues. The two play wonderfully and its delightful to hear Memphis in the twenties evoked. While neither are great singers, they both deliver their vocals in unforced, husky, good-natured styles. One can hear in these performances how much they enjoy playing this material and they do not sound like they are too studied or reverent with respect to the material which increases the pleasure of this disc. Also, they avoid over-recorded early blues recordings so thankfully we are spared second rate Robert Johnson covers This release is available from the Patuxent Records website at or email Rick Franklin at for information on how to purchase this.

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