Saturday, January 16, 2016

Calvin Frazier This Old World’s In A Tangle

Calvin Frazier
This Old World’s In A Tangle

This disc is is Laurie Records’ second reissue of Library of Congress field recordings that Alan Lomax recorded in Detroit in the late thirties. Containing all of the blues Calvin Frazier recorded that are still extant on fragile acetate discs, it does not include his religious songs, upon the producer’s belief that they would not appeal to blues fans. This may be a miscalculation, given this disc’s unavoidable rough sound and the short playing time.

Frazier was a cousin of the late Johnny Shines, and was associated with Robert Johnson. Johnson’s influence pervades a good portion of the music here. The title track (heard in a fragment and a full version); I’m in the Highway, Man; She’s a Double Crossing Woman, and Highway 51 Blues, echo Johnson’s Kind Hearted Women, Terraplane Blues, and Dust My Broom. Frazier also sings with a Johnson-like falsetto. Other tracks include Frazier’s Lily Mae, that he later recorded commercially, and versions of The Dirty Dozens and Pinetop Smith’s Boogie Woogie. There are two short interview fragments included as well. Calvin Frazier would be a part of the post-war Detroit blues scene, although his recordings in a combo setting are far different from these country blues recordings.

Like the previous Laurie reissue of Sampson Pittman’s Library of Congress recordings, this is accompanied by a wonderful 40 page booklet with extensive information on Frazier, and full lyric transcriptions. The sound may deter casual listeners, and the playing time is somewhat scanty. Despite these shortcomings, this will be an essential purchase for country blues devotees.

This review originally appeared in the March 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 189) and I likely received my review copy from the record company. This is out-of-print but well worth checking for used copies of it. Here is Frazier's rendition of "Double Crossing Woman."

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