Friday, March 15, 2013

And This Was Maxwell Street


Blues was a staple of the Maxwell Street market for decades before gentrification led to the closing of the market some years ago. In the late 1990s and 2000, there were Ds that released some of the amazing music that might be heard on a Sunday there. This review from the latter part of 2000 was published in the DC Blues Calendar. I likely received review copies from the labels. This is out of print so you need to look for used copies but Amazon, for example, shows several sellers for this.

While efforts continue (bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson is still on a hunger strike) to preserve the remaining portions of the historic Maxwell Street market area, Rooster Blues has released a three-disc compilation, And This is Maxwell Street that presents music that was recorded as part of the making of the film, And This is Free. Some of the music heard here was previously issued by Rounder on lp and cd as Robert Nighthawk, Live on Maxwell Street. 

The Rounder release has since been repackaged and reconfigured with some previously unissued selections and including tracks attributed to J.B. Lenoir, Carey Bell and Johnny Young. The Rooster Blues set has a full two √éhours of music and also includes selections from Little Arthur (Red Top/Ornithology which is deleted from the latest version of the Rounder); John Wrencher; Arvella Gray, Carrie Robinson; and James and Fannie Brewer. Additionally, Mama Talk To Your Daughter, credited to JB Lenoir on the Rounder is credited to Big Mojo Elem here. 

There are several Nighthawk performances here that are not on the Rounder including a Dust My Broom that includes Mike Bloomfield on guitar (possibly being Bloomfield's earliest recording). The full range of music here is quite powerful and entertaining including ArvNighthawk s updating of Dr. Clayton’s Cheatin’ and Lyin’ Blues, the fervent gospel singing of Carrie Robinson as well as James and Fannie Brewer, street singer Arvella Gray’s vigorous renditions of Corinna, Corinna and John Henry, and one armed harp wizard Big John Wrencher’s Lucille

Several tracks spotlight Carey Bell, with I’m Ready perhaps being Bell’s first recorded vocal. Portions of vendor sales pitches and street preachers sermons are heard here as well. Providing some context to the recording. The ounder has a portion of Mike Bloomfield s interview with Robert Nighthawk (uncredited however) which is heard in its entirety (nearly 50 minutes) as the third disc of the Rooster Blues set. 

My advance copy of the Rooster Blues lacks the booklet that should be accompanying it so I cannot comment on this aspect of the package, but because of the more complete reissue of this historic and wonderful blues, And This Is Maxwell Street is preferable, and is a contender for vintage reissue of 2000.

Here is the legendary Robert Nighthawk on Maxwell Street some 50 years ago.


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