Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mercy Dee's Troublesome Blues

It was back in the early 1990s that Arhoolie made available its 1961 recordings by Texas pianist-singer Mercy Dee Walton Troublesome Mind. Mercy Dee, who died in 1962, was one of the more distinctive performers and lyricists of the postwar blues. You may not have heard his Specialty recording, One Room Country Shack, but are likely familiar with other recordings of the song (Including Buddy Guy) and will have a sense of the powerful lyrical imagery conveyed (“People, I sitting here a thousand miles from nowhere. Here in my one room country little shack,”). The album includes a remake of it along with several songs employing the same melody as well as also possess distinctive and equally compelling lyrics like Have You Ever Been Out In The Country. While not as extroverted a showman as other Texas born pianists who moved to the West Coast such as Amos Milburn and Little Willie Littlefield, Mercy Dee played crisply and thoughtfully. On the slow pieces he plays a spare bass while playing authoritatively with his right hand. He certainly could barrelhouse with the best of them as on Mercy’s Shuffle or the rocking Red Light, with his clever use of rhymes in the tradition of What’d I Say. Mercy Dee's straightforward vocals mixed with his lyrical imagery and solid piano (backed by among others K.C. Douglas and Sidney Maiden) packed a real punch. This is a first rate reissue.

(This is rewritten from my original review which appeared in the February 1992 Jazz & Blues Report.

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