Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Joe Williams Got Wild

With a career that spanned decades and one whose music was robust and vital until his passing, Big Joe Williams is one of the significant blues figures whose music perhaps has unjustly forgotten. In addition to the wonderful Delmark album referenced in this review, he made wonderful recordings for Arhoolie, Folkways and other labels, in addition to his wonderful recordings prior to World War II. This review originally appeared in the January-February 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 266).

Big Joe Williams, whose recording career spanned the the thirties to the eighties, was among the greatest Delta bluesmen who played and traveled with many legends and contributed one of the blues most enduring classics, Baby Please Don’t Go. The selections on this latest release, I Got Wild (Delmark) include alternate takes to previously issued selections, unissued tracks and some studio talk.

From the opening Coffeehouse Blues to the closing remake of Washboard’s Sam Back Door (familiar to some from Little Walter’s recording, Tell Me Mama), these recordings offer Williams’ fierce, rhythmic nine-string guitar playing and his fervent vocals. Its amusing listening to the studio chat before his rendition of Charlie Patton’s Peavine Blues, where a couple of strings are broken so the engineer announces, Big Joe Williams and his six and half string blues, where he is accompanied by bassist Ransom Knowling.

Big Joe was probably the single biggest influence on David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards and in all fairness to Edwards who is highly revered, Edwards’ music only occasionally reached the level of Williams. Bob Koester’s recollections of Williams in the liner notes are also very informative. Big Joe Williams belongs in every blues collection, and if perhaps I would first recommend Piney Wood Blues on Delmark, this disc is full of strong delta blues and recommended on its own.

This is still available and I received a review copy from Delmark.

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