Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blues Walking With Frankie Lee Sims

A look at an Australian reissue of downhome Texas juke joint performer, Frankie Lee Sims, that originally appeared in the April 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 294). This release is still available from and others sources.

Texas bluesman Frankie Lee Sims was a traditionally based performer who was perhaps less skilled than Lightning Hopkins, but had success with juke joint combo recordings like Lucy Mae Blues and Walkin’ With Frankie (the latter most recently revived by Philip Walker on his fine Delta Groove album).

Sims first recorded for Specialty, and then for Johnny Vincent’s Ace label. AIM Records out of Australia has just issued Walking With Frankie, 14 tracks recorded by legendary New York record man Bobby Robinson in 1960 which were first issued in England in 1975 – 5 years after Sims had passed away.

A cousin of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sims was a downhome Texas country bluesman whose finest recordings were tough Texas juke joint combo blues such as his two most celebrated songs. The liner notes claim that by the late 1950s Sims had shifted his music more in the mode of the great Guitar Slim, but this is not supported by the rough house vocal and sometimes wild instrumental delivery of Send My Soul to the Devil, his slightly chaotic rendition of Hopkins’ Short Haired Woman, and the lively Going Back to the River, with a couple of effective short rocking guitar breaks, showing Sims remained a down home juke performer. The timing of the performances is sometimes erratic as the backing band occasionally can be heard catching up or holding the performance together.

Sims was not as strong and consistent as a bluesman as his celebrated cousin and did not record as frequently. He also did not benefit from the blues revival of the sixties but invested passion into his performances and while I would recommend Sims’ Specialty recordings first, this is of interest to anyone wanting to hear some real downhome Texas blues.

My review copy of the CD was provided by Jazz & Blues Report.

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