Sunday, September 15, 2013

Five early blues guitar gems

There is a 'blues revue" called "Ghosts of the Blues" whose notion of blues is pretty unimaginative and seems tailored for blues that weenie rock fans might have heard of and like. Well here are five examples of early blues featuring guitar that certainly need exposure. I mean do we need another mediocre rendition of Crossroads or Red House.

First up is Blind Blake with Police Dog Blues. One of the premier guitarists of early blues recordings, this song was also a favorite of the late John Jackson. Blake's recordings should be pretty easy to find.

Next up is Big Bill Broonzy, who we know was influenced by Blake and whose early recordings displayed his marvelous approach to the guitar. Mississippi River Blues (from 1934) is a melodic precursor of Key To The Highway, and one is surprised that folks don't delve into this and cover it as opposed to the more familiar blues standard.

Lonnie Johnson was a significant influence on Robert Johnson (who used to claim he was one of the Johnson boys). He was a brilliant guitarist who was not only a popular recording artist but also recorded with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Here is a gem of his early recordings.

It is easy to forget just how accomplished and great Blind Lemon Jefferson was. His Matchbox Blues was be adapted by a number of blues and rock artists with its line about wondering if a matchbox would hold his clothes. His self-accompaniment is stunning.

We close this blog entry with Robert Wilkins' marvelous song about a night at a down home juke joint Old Jim Canaan's. Wilkins would give up the blues for the church. He would take one of his most famous recordings That's No Way To Get Along, and make it a gospel number, The Prodigal Son, that the Rolling Stones would cover. My friend, Memphis Gold, grew up in the Memphis Church of God in Christ Church that Wilkins was associated with and was one of those who mentored my friend's musical development.

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