This review of Dr. Ross' Boogie Disease on Arhoolie, appeared back in the November 1992 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 176) back before the explosion of the World Wide Web. He would pass less than a year after this was written. He had moved to the Detroit area in 1954 and I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival where he was as vigorous as anybody. The Swedish blues artist, Robert Lighthouse, based in the Washington DC area, is among those who was musically influenced by this marvelous player. The album is still in print too.
Now a resident of the Detroit area, Isaiah “Dr.” Ross developed from a fine delta blues artist in the tradition of Big Joe Williams and Robert Petway into a one-man band. One of the artists who recorded for Sam Phillips, his early Memphis recordings have been reissued on Boogie Disease. Listening to the exuberance of the alternates to Boogie Disease and Chicago Breakdown, one can detect not only the strong delta rhythmic style of a Big Joe Williams (as well as northern transplant John lee Hooker), but also more than a bit of the influence of John Lee Williamson, reflected in a variety of songs including Going Back South and Polly Put a Kettle On. Of considerable note are his strong interpretations of such delta themes as Going to the River (Derived perhaps from Blind Lemon Jefferson, but played in the delta style), Shake ‘Em Down and Mississippi Blues. The latter is a Catfish Blues variant better known as Cat’s Squirrel and the source of the recording by the rock group, Cream. In addition to his youthful influences of John Lee Williamson and Tommy McClennan, one can also appreciate the impact of Muddy Waters, and John lee Hooker, particularly on the hypnotic rhythms of Industrial Avenue Boogie, a reworking of Hooker’s Boogie Chillum.This is an updated version of a vinyl reissue, and Steve La Vere has updated his and Bob Eagle’s original liner notes. Some of you have heard some of Dr. Ross’ Sun recordings and will have an idea of the exuberant boogie and barrelhouse blues to be found here. Others are in for a treat with respect to these superbly rendered performances.