Saturday, August 06, 2011

Raucous Country Negro Jam Session

The following review of an album of real down home blues appeared in the August 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 285).

A new release from Arhoolie is one of those rare recordings that features an African-American blues fiddler. Fiddler James ‘Butch’ Cage & guitarist Willie B. Thomas are heard on a disc of Old Time Black Southern String Band Music, a title that is slightly misleading insofar as the two are heard on a program of mostly down-in-the-alley blues with Cage’s vigorous, rough-hewn fiddle complemented by Thomas’ rhythmic guitar.

The duo was recorded by folklorist Dr. Harry Oster in Zachery, Louisiana in the 1950s and selections by them were issued on the Folk-Lyric album, Country Negro Jam Session (later available on Arhoolie who had acquired the Folk-Lyric label) and an Arhoolie issued several other selections on the CD I Have to Paint My Face. With the exception of one track, the music here is previously unissued. Much of it is comprised of traditional blues themes or their renditions of blues standards such as Some Day Baby (the Sleepy John Estes song sometimes known as Worried Life Blues), Mean Old Frisco, The Dirty Dozen, Rock Me Mama, Easy Rider Blues, Careless Love Blues, Since I Layed My Burden Down and You’ve Gotta Move. On the latter two, Rosalie Wilkerson takes the lead on the vocals (with Cage and Thomas enthusiastically joining her) while Robert Jenkins sings on I Had a Dream Last Night (All I Had Was Gone).

This is far from polished and one can imagine the house parties with the corn liquor flowing as the two kept the music running all night long as the blues would get shouted, Thomas would keep a good beat with his rhythm and Cage’s fiddle would be like a buzzsaw. A good time can be has listening to this.

I do not recall if I purchased or received a review copy.

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