Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yazoo's Barrelhouse and Juke Joint Piano Blues Reissues

The latest volumes in Yazoo's piano blues reissues maintain the standard set by the earlier releases in this series. 

Dallas Alley Drag collects 23 selections of pianists and vocalists associated with the notorious Deep Ellum District. Whistlin’ Alex Moore is perhaps the best known performer here, and is heard on several selections including Heart Wrecked Blues, where his whistling is employed along with a loping piano accompaniment. While vocalist Billiken Johnson’s vocal train whistle effects may get tiresome, the accompaniment by Neal Roberts is fine and Frisco Blues is one of several train blues here. Several classic blues verses can be heard on Billiken’s Weary Blues, with stride-flavored piano from Texas Bill Day. Jack Ranger’s Window Blues, celebrating the Texas and Pacific is another fine track. Two fine vocalists, Ida Mae Mack and Bessie Tucker, benefit from K.D. Johnson s fine playing. Tucker was a particularly powerful singer and her three performances are quite compelling. Overall, this is a solid compilation with solid piano and singing.

Even more spectacular is Juke Joint Saturday Night, which includes a number of great barrelhouse blues and rags. It opens with Jabo Williams'spectacular Pratt City Blues, showcasing a driving left hand and some imaginative right hand work. Little Brother Montgomery’s Vicksburg Blues, his version of the Forty Four theme is a classic piano blues. Louise Johnson four sides, often urged on by Son House and Willie Brown, are spectacular including On the Wall, a celebration of various Memphis Saloons with a terrific accompaniment adapted from Cow Cow Blues. Equally astonishing is Skip James idiosyncratic piano on If You Haven t Any Hay Get on Down the Road. His 22-20 Blues, maybe be less spectacular but was covered by Robert Johnson as 32-20. Other selections feature, among others, James Wiggins, Roosevelt Sykes and Kingfish Bill Tomlin with some knock down, barrelhouse blues and stomps. 

Both albums featured informative booklets by Bob Hall.

I wrote this review for the DC Blues Calendar in late 2000 and it appeared in either late 2000 or early 2001. I received review copies from Shanachie which at the time operated Yazoo. One may have to track down used copies of these but they are available as downloads.

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