Among new Delmark releases is “Boogie Woogie Kings”, a compilation of piano blues and boogie woogie performances that is apparently the first in a series following Delmark’s acquisition of the Euphonic Records label master recordings several years ago. Included are representative performances by the trio of Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson including a rendition of “Boogie Woogie Prayer” by the trio together. Ammons leads off with a stomping “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” although this listener misses the ragtime and vaudeville aspects of Pinetop Smith’s original. Johnson’s “G-Flat Blues,” displays why he was so influential on the likes of Jay McShann and Archibald, while Lewis on “Doll House Boogie,” switches from piano to a celeste midway (probably accounting for the song’s title). While these are solid performances, they serve more as an introduction to these three boogie woogie piano giants. The remainder of the performances are split between Cripple Clarence Lofton, Henry Brown and Speckled Red. Lofton made some commercial recordings and the six recordings issued here have been issued several times over the past four decades (I believe first by Yazoo) and are spectacular with his “raggedly-ass” driving boogie evident on the spectacular “Streamline Train,” a reworking of the classic “Cow Cow Blues,” and his rapid-fire “I Don’t Know,” which was the basis for Willie Mabon’s hit blues for the Chess Brothers. Lofton made some fine blues for Brunswick and Decca, and Delmark will be issuing a CD of his Session recordings for CD. This listener can’t wait. Henry Brown was a prominent member of the St. Louis school of pianists and recorded extensively, including as an accompanist for singers Alice Moore, Mary Johnson and Edith Johnson, is heard on three numbers including the previously unissued “Deep Morgan,” an evocative blues with Brown’s interjections describing what was the home of St. Louis’ blues scene. Finally, I would use the term barrelhouse more than boogie woogie to describe the stomp down playing of Speckled Red, who reprises his classic “The Dirty Dozens,” as well as “Right String, Wrong Yo Yo,” made famous by his much younger brother, Piano Red.” Bellowing out his blues like Roosevelt Sykes, Speckled Red’s driving piano knows no boundaries. With five previously unissued selections, piano blues lovers will enjoy this collection that brings together some solid performances, but with so many great piano blues collections out there, one cannot call this essential.
Delmark Records sent me the review copy of this CD