Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Serve Me Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942

Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942 (Old Hat Records) is a relatively recent compilation of vintage jazz and blues recordings that celebrate barbecue, the distinctly southern American form of cuisine, usually slow--cooked over a pit. While some northerners might use the term to refer to grilling or cooking outside, as Tom Hatchett observes, in his essay in the accompanying booklet, in the South barbecue was a noun that is that special food, brisket in Texas, pork most elsewhere, prepared in the home place’s special tradition.

Producer Marshall Wyatt compiled 24 recordings from the likes of Frankie ‘Half Pint’ Jaxon, Big Boy Teddy Edwards, Memphis Minnie, Barbecue Bob, Blind Boy Fuller, Tiny Parham and His Musicians, Richard M. Jones and His Jazz Wizards, Bessie Jackson, Georgia White, Brownie McGhee, the Mississippi Jook Band, and others. The mastering of the original 78s sounds pretty good. There may be some background hiss from the source recordings which is unavoidable but should not be more than a minor annoyance (if that) to long time collectors of vintage blues.

Wyatt has contributed song notes on all the recordings which range from Half-Pint Jaxon’s celebration of the joys of such cuisine Down at Jaspers Bar-B-Que; the raucous skiffle band feel of The Mississippi Jook Band’s Barbecue Bust; and the double entendre employed by pig meat craving blues singers such as Memphis Minnie with Little Son Joe (Pig Meat on the Line), Blind Boy Fuller with Bull City Red on washboard (I Crave My Pig Meat), Georgia White (Pigmeat Blues on which Richard M. Jones is on piano and Les Paul on guitar) and Bo Carter ((Pig Meat Is What I Crave).

Robert Hicks, known as Barbecue Bo, was a cook, waiter and entertainer at an Atlanta barbecue, and on his Barbecue Blues, displays his driving twelve-string guitar style on a blues that mixes together a bunch of traditional verses. Half-Pint Jaxon also is heard on a cover of Gimme a Pig’s Foot and a Bottle of Beer, with a terrific combo that includes Lil Hardin Armstrong, clarinetist Rubert Cole (who takes the solo)and trumpeter Henry ‘Red’ Allen. As Wyatt observes, it is the only pre-World War II cover of a recording from Bessie Smith’s final session. Band leader and pianist Tiny Parham and His Musicians are heard on a rollicking twenties Chicago jazz recording, Pigs’ Feet and Slaw, while The Four Southern Singers’ Ham Bone Am Sweet, modernizes a minstrel song with vocal harmonies and a washboard-jug band accompaniment.

Other musical delicacies (pun intended) on this include the Jolly Twins’ Come On Down, a spirited guitar duet betweenWalter Roland (normally a pianist) and Sonny Scott) as they celebrate goods with dancing and barbecue as well as Bogus Ben Covington’s I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop, a lampoon of a Scottish hymn with a banjo and harmonica accompaniment that is not far from the minstrel stages and tent shows. Lucille Bogan, under the recorded name of Bessie Jackson sang the hard hitting Barbecue Bess, where her forceful vocal is strongly supported by Walter Roland’s piano and Josh White’s guitar.

Savannah Churchill’s Fat Meat Is Good Meat, has a solid small group backing that anticipates the post-war jump blues vein with some excellent clarinet from Jimmy Lytell and trumpet by Russ Case. Richard M. Jones, composer of Trouble in Mind, is heard on Smoked Meat Blues, with Shirley Clay’s cornet and Artie Starks’ squeaky clarinet. Under the name of Hank Jones and His Ginger, Lonnie Johnson, his brother James “Steady Roll’ Johnson and an unidentified steel guitarist recorded the instrumental Barbecue Blues, displaying considerable sophistication in their use of musical textures (as noted by Wyatt in his notes). Also worth noting is the two-part Who Did You Give My Barbecue To? by Big Boy Teddy Edwards backed by Big Bill Broonzy and Papa Charlie Jackson.

This mix of lively downhome blues and rollicking early jazz and vocal harmony recordings is a definite musical feast well digesting like the delicious culinary tradition the songs salute. WIth the excellent annotation and engineering of the source material, this is an excellent collection.

This was a purchase.

1 comment:

Phil Wight said...

like the taste of this juicy item!!!