Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Blues Time Machine Takes Us Back To December 1976

This is my blues column from the December 1976 Buffalo Jazz Report which had Dexter Gordon on the cover to promote his appearance at the Tralfamadore Cafe in November. As I noted the first 58 issues of Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) have been digitized and can be downloaded from the University of Buffalo Library system. The website for these archived issues is: http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/BuffJazz

Clifton Chenier is the undisputed master of zydeco music, a hybrid form which mixes the· cajun music of the French speaking population of Southwest Louisiana with blues. His latest album on Arhoolie, Bogalusa Boogie (1076), is his seventh for the label. It is as usual a thoroughly ingratiating set as Clifton's mastery of the accordion, his warm good-humored vocals (most of which are in cajun French) and a tight band, which features his brother Cleveland ori rubboard and 'the honking r'n'b tenor saxophone of John Hart, brew a musical gumbo that is one of his best sets. Highlights include Je Me Reveiller Ce Matin, a French version of B.B. King's Woke Up This Morning, with Clifton's accordian playing King's guitar part, One Step at a Time, where Clifton adds Jimmy Reedish harmonica and the stomping instrumental Ride 'Em Cowboy. Clifton is about to have a double album set released on Utopia and I can't wait for it. One warning about this music - exposure to Clifton's good time music can be addicting and his output for Arhoolie is uniformly high though this set is especially fine. 

Arhoolie is one of the finest labels of blues and folk music. J.C. Burris' One of These Mornings (1075) features the bluesy vocals and harmonica of Sonny Terry's nephew whose music is the dominant influence. This is a warm set which includes a couple of pieces where J.C. plays the bones. A highlight on this album, which was recorded live, is Inflation Blues. J.C. is unaccompanied.

Blues Classics is subsidiary of Arhoolie and has a catalog of excellent reissues. The latest release When Women Sang the Blues is a valuable reissue of women singing down-home, or rural, blues, as opposed to the vaudevile blues of Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and others. Excellent performances by Lillian Glenn: Chippie Hill (with excellent accompaniment from Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red), Memphis Minnie and Willie B. Huff are included. There are also two excellent collections of Memphis Minnie on the Blues Classics.

Nighthawk Records is a new label that apparently will  be specializing in reissues of rare postwar blues  records. Their initial release of four albums are of a uniformly high standard and produce many cases of the rural flavor city blues so popular among enthusiasts. As they all are fine releases, I will simply describe their contents and mention some of the performers heard. Windy City Blues: The Transistion (101) features one side of pre-World War 2 recordings including Pinetop Sparks' Everyday I Have The Blues (the first recording of the song) Washboard Sam, Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Jr. Lockwood. The second side includes Lockwood, Tampa Red, and Tony Hollins in post-war recordings.

Chicago Slickers: 1948-1953 (102) features more classic Chicago postwar blues including Johnny Shines' classic Ramblin', and rare performances by Little Walter, Floyd Jones and Homesick James among others. These two Chicago antho-logies nicely complement Chicago Blues, The Early 50s (Blues Classics BC 8) and On the Road Again (Muskadine 100), two classic anthologies of Chicago Blues.

Lowdown Memphis Harmonica Jam (103) features Hot Shot Love's wild Harmonica Jam, six tunes by the great one-man band Joe Hill Louis, Walter Horton and Willie Nix (with a young James Cotton) that boogie up a storm. Detroit Ghetto Blues (104) includes Louisiana Red (as Playboy Fuller and Rocky Fuller). Baby Boy Warren (whose Hello Stranger is a remake of Sonny Boy Williamson 1's Mattie Mae and has Sonny Boy 2 on harmonica) Walter Mitchell, L. C. Green and other generally obscure names in a set of blues that reflects the influence of Sonny Boy 1 in the reworking of his songs, and in the various harmonica players who appear on these sides. Albums on the Blues Classics label incidentally complement these issues also.

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