Unmatched Guitar Playing
This disc is full of unmatched guitar playing and ferocious vocals urging the listener to go to church and be redeemed. There is also a Blues song, "Cross And Evil Woman Blues", which sounds quite unlike all other Blues artists' repertoires. Though Gary Davis taught hundreds of students in the 1950s and 1960s, including Dave Van Ronk and Larry Johnson, he never played as well as he did on these seminal recordings.
4.5 Stars For Lightnin' Hopkins
There are a few songs on these discs that I don't like, because I feel Lightnin' was being a bit lazy, but let's face it; the bulk of this music is some primordial, powerful stuff. "Tim Moore's Farm" and "Unkind Blues" are dazzling. The last song that Lightnin' Hopkins performs on the Yazoo DVD which he shares with Roosevelt Sykes, which I believe we can call "Grandpa and Grandma Blues", though the title isn't given, is wonderfully improvised and similar to some of the music on this box set.
Essential Pre-Blues Memphis Music
Who can listen to "My Monday Woman" and truly not enjoy it? This disc is full of Pre-Blues gems, despite the sameness of the guitar playing on nearly every track. Jim Jackson has a warm and endearing voice and a large repertoire of songs. I recommend listening to this disc in conjunction with Document Records' Furry Lewis disc and some Frank Stokes, in order to get a good view of what Memphis must have been like in the first decade of the 20th century.
King Of The Electric Slide Guitar
Earl Hooker was the king of the electric slide guitar. He was better than Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters and even Elmore James. He was an extremely versatile player. The two extended improvisations on this disc are quite excellent. My all-time favorite Hooker track, "Tanya", is not on this album. The classic "End of The Blues" isn't on this disc, either. Instead, we get some rare Hooker tracks. "Hooker 'N' Steve" is immense fun. It's a real shame that more people, especially guitar players, don't know who Earl Hooker is. Although he's on one of the American Folk Blues Festival discs, his performance is sloppy and uneventful. I really wish there were some footage of the man in his prime.
A True Pioneer
This is the perfect box set. The liner notes are great, the packaging is fine, and the music contained on these discs is simply stunning. Lonnie's work with Texas Alexander doesn't sound like anything else committed to record. "Section Gang Blues" and "Levee Camp Moan" are startling in their intensity. His guitar duets with Eddie Lang will never lose their novelty, because they are music on the level of the Classical music of Europe. "Away Down in The Alley Blues" and "Hot Fingers" are mind-boggling. Lonnie's Blues lyrics are original and greatly detailed. He is the master of romantic balladry. He is a pioneer in Rhythm & Blues. He knows how to use double-entendre, and he certainly seems to have a true distrust of women!
The Glorious Lonnie Johnson
Although some hardcore Blues fans may complain about songs like "Old Rocking Chair" and "My Mother's Eyes" being on this album, the fact is that Lonnie Johnson sounded phenomenal when he crooned. This just isn't the Lonnie album for the guitar nerd; that's all. The interview at the end of the disc about his entire family being musicians is fascinating. Also, despite people often listing his birth year as 1899, he was really born in 1889, according to more modern scholarship.
Lonnie Johnson is THE guitar virtuoso. He is the inventor of Jazz guitar, for God's sake! This album is made by the first three songs, which are exquisite. Johnson recorded in the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s, and sounded different in each decade. In my opinion, he was in his prime when backing Texas Alexander with those otherwordly guitar moans, and his guitar duets with Eddie Lang still sound fresh almost 100 years later. I've never heard guitar playing like there is on "The Risin' Sun". However, let's jump ahead three decades to this album that was made with Elmer Snowden. I highly suggest you purchase this disc, as Lonnie's guitar playing is beautifully romantic and his vocals are impeccable.
Stellar Blues From Jimmy Reed's Main Man
This is stellar Blues from Jimmy Reed's main man, Eddie Taylor. Taylor played guitar on all of Jimmy Reed's pop Blues records during the 1950s and 1960s. Jimmy Reed's guitar playing skills were non-existent. Eddie Taylor is also the man who taught the great Freddie King how to play guitar, who, in turn, became the primary inspiration for Eric Clapton's electric guitar playing, along with B.B. King. All of the songs on this disc are thoroughly enjoyable and the album is not plagued at all by the lousy vocals and lyrics Taylor put forth on the previously reviewed album of his on this blog. Footage of Eddie is available on the "Antone's: Home of The Blues" dvd, which is a great and cheap buy. On the dvd, Clifford Antone calls Eddie Taylor, "The Father of Rock 'N' Roll".