Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bukka White's Classic Rediscovery Blues

Back three decades ago, Samuel Charters produced a series of blues lps for the Swedish Sonet label, The Legacy of the Blues, along with some other blues recordings. Charters is known as both a blues author (The Country Blues, The Poetry of the Blues, Bluesmen) as well as a producer of blues recordings, including the classic Chicago, The Blues Today! and albums by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy to name a few of the artists he recorded. Universal Music, through its Verve imprint has just issued seven of the seven Sonet lps for reissue in a series, The Sonet Blues Story. Six of these are from The Legacy of the Blues series. This is the third in a series of posts of my reviews from this series that originally appeared in the June 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 283).

Some of the albums in The Legacy of the Blues were from other producers. In fact, the volume by Bukka White reissues the Takoma LP that captured the 1963 Memphis session that Ed Denson and John Fahey taped after White had been located. White was one of the great Delta singers who first recorded in the 1930s. He had seen Charlie Patton and was influenced by this pioneering artist. White played a driving slide style that complimented his rough, shouted vocals. One of the blues most imaginative lyricists, he could weave a lyric story out of the sky as he would do for Arhoolie.

The recordings, many remakes of tunes he waxed for Columbia, are strong, focused performances whether the reworking of Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues, the train blues, New Orleans Streamline and The Atlanta Special, where his playing echoed the train traveling through the countryside, the gospel message of I Am the Heavenly Way or the country boogie Shake ‘Em on Down, these performances remain as vital as when he recorded them over forty years ago. If you have the Takoma album, you do not need this. Otherwise this is one of the best Delta blues recordings of the past half-century.

It should be noted that on these Sonet reissues, the playing time is somewhat short. Even those with extra tracks do not exceed 45 minutes. Still there is some good to exceptional music to be heard on these. This CD may be out-of-print but is available from various sellers and is available as mp3 files. I received my review copy from the publication.

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