Friday, September 14, 2012

Modern Records Classic Delta Downhome Sessions

The Modern Record labels are perhaps best known for classic blues and R&B recordings by the likes of Hadda Brooks, The Cadets, Etta James and B.B. King, but the Bihari Brothers (the principals behind the group of labels) also recorded some tuff downhome jukejoint blues in the deep south area around Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi. The Modern Downhome Blues Sessions, Arkansas & Mississippi 1951-1952 Volume 1 (UK Ace) collects a number of recordings at sessions organized by Joe Bihari and Ike Turner. 

These are mostly tough small group blues groups which opens up with Elmon Mickles aka Drifting Slim reworking a couple of John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson songs. He was part of a group that also included harmonica player Sunny Blair and Junior Brooks whose rendition of Muddy Waters’ Appealing Blues, She’s the Little Girl For Me has Brooks doing a remarkable job of evoking Waters’ distinctive slide style. 

Other sides represent Charlie Booker and Houston Boines, the latter who was a member of Eddie Cusic’s group that the young Little Milton was a member of. Boines’ Relation Blues makes effective use of the Dust My Broom riff, likely played by Ike Turner on piano. Turner’s piano also is present on Charlie Booker’s fine Rabbit Blues. Boyd Gilmore, supposedly a cousin of Elmore James is heard on nine tracks, which does include some alternate takes, including three of his rendition of Ramblin’ on My Mind with fine piano from Turner.

There are two Elmore James tracks included Hand in Hand and Please Find My Baby that illustrate why he was among the favorite singers of Jules Bihari and the latter includes some slashing, distorted slide guitar to compliment the intense singing. There are also two sides from pianist Ernest Lane who is still active and playing, before the closing instrumental from Red Boyd’s Big Band, which is a bit out of character from the rest of the music here. 

There are extensive liner notes from Living Blues founding editor Jim O’Neal that go into depth on the artist and the recordings. I first got exposed to a number of these recordings on vinyl reissues on the Blues Classics label 35 years ago, and these recordings still hold up. With advances in technology, they sound better than ever. This is a must for fans of down-home, juke-joint blues. 

This review originally appeared in the July-August 2003 DC Blues Calendar, then the newsletter for the DC Blues Society. I purchased this CD.

No comments: