Sunday, December 13, 2015

Heritage of the Blues Reissues - Charles Brown and Josh White

With recordings in much of Europe becoming public domain after 50 years, there has been a prolific amount of reissues of classic blues recordings at very economical prices. Heritage of the Blues is a series of reissues of such material on the Blue Orchard label. Among the reissues on this label are double CDs by Charles Brown and Josh White.

Charles Brown’s Cryin’ Mercy presents 55 tracks by the pioneering pianist and blues balladeer. It ranges from the early Philo-Aladdin recordings by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers to 1956 recordings with many of the greats on so many Rock and Roll sessions present. There is a generous selection of material here with supporting musician's including Maxwell Davis, Oscar Moore, Don Wilkerson, Clifford Solomon, Pete ‘Guitar’ Lewis, Plas Johnson, Lee Allen, Red Tyler, and Earl Palmer. the notes provide the contours of Brown’s career and achievements and also give full personnel information. It is a solid overview of the period of his greatest popularity and includes classic recordings such as Drifting Blues, Get Yourself Another Fool, Black Night, Trouble Blues, Honey Sipper, and Fool’s Paradise and with good sound easily recommended.

Josh White, Blood Red River, is an even more varied release ranging from Wing Wang Harmonica Blues in 1929; the classic Piedmont blues, Blood Red River, in 1932; This Heart of Mine by Josh White as the Singing Christian; School Boy Blues accompanying pianist Walter Roland; Silicosis Is Killing Me as Pinewood Tom; Careless Love with Sidney Bechet & Wilson Meyers; Liza Jane with Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger; Hold On with the Union boys (Tom Glazer,Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, and Brownie McGhee); a cover of Strange Fruit; the highly influential The House of the Risin’ Sun; John Henry, and One Meatball. As can be seen its a varied setting for solo blues with wonderful Piedmont fingestyle guitar to sophisticated performances that were at the core of the rise of modern folk music in the cities. White was a sophisticated performer and sang sometimes in a manner that some would consider bland, yet certainly was highly influential and entertaining and this 2-disc set is invaluable in helping to document this very important and greatly overlooked artist.

This review appeared originally in the May-June 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 293). I probably received my review copies from that publication. I believe these are still available.

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