Thursday, September 29, 2011

Juke Boy Bonner's One-Man Band 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 fifth in a series of posts of my reviews from this series that originally appeared in the June 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 283).

It should be noted that on these Sonet reissues, the playing time is somewhat short. 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.

Weldon “Juke Boy” Bonner was a Houston based one-and band who was a notable blues poet as well as a performer but who never was able to get out of his hard life. His recordings for Arhoolie demonstrate his approach a one-man band with his effective harp and guitar playing as well as his songs which often dealt with topical themes.

Recorded by Arhoolie’s Chris Strachwitz, the performances on Bonner’s Blues Story volume are fine ones opening with I’m a Bluesman, singing about his hard life (“My father passed when I was two.”) with an easy groove followed by Problems All Around (I can’t get ahead from being held down) taken at a slow tempo. Besides his strong lyrics, Bonner provides strong boogie-laced guitar playing and tough rack harp playing that made him a fascinating purveyor of the one-man blues band idiom. Like his other releases, this is a gem that one should be delighted is widely available now.

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