Where the Blues rears its beautiful and ugly head.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The Greatest Living Bluesman & The Humorous Furry Lewis
Quite Honestly The Best Country Blues CD In Decades
This is, quite honestly, the best Country Blues cd to be released in decades. We have to remember that Alvin wasn't born in Mississippi or Texas around the turn of the century. He's a young guy who was raised on Classic Rock, and here he is, writing original material that sounds like it could have come from "Hambone" Willie Newbern, King Solomon Hill, or Son House. This is truly a fantastic disc, and there's not a single song that one should avoid. Alvin Youngblood Hart is the greatest living Bluesman; even better than Corey Harris, Samuel James, Rory Block, and John Hammond, Jr. I only hope that he has a long and productive recording career. "Them Fair Weather Friends" and "Big Mama's Door" are originals, but one would never know that on first, second or even fifteenth listen. Alvin is the greatest living Bluesman out there, period. I was lucky enough to see him perform live with his band, opening for an aged and senile Bo Diddley, about two years ago. I was hoping he'd perform some solo, acoustic, Country Blues material, but he didn't. I still went home happy. Most importantly, Alvin's diction when he sings is beautiful. He doesn't sounds like a product of the modern age, and I don't mean that in a degrading way. He has an intangible tang to his pronunciation when he sings.
A Blues Classic
This is a classic Blues album put together by Document Records. Both versions of "Kassie Jones" and "John Henry" are excellent, "I Will Turn Your Money Green" is humorous and features some of Furry's best guitar playing, and "Falling Down Blues" is a personal favorite. It's easy to see why the great Dave Van Ronk covered "Dry Land Blues". If you've only heard post-World War II Furry Lewis recordings, you really need to pick this up. His guitar playing was immaculate in the 20s, his singing gentler on the ears, and his lyrics were, well, the kind that only Furry could produce. This is one of the best releases in the entire Document Records catalogue. I highly recommend everyone buying this, or even downloading it off of Amazon.com. It is most definitely worth it. When I hear the lyrics, "I wished I had a-died, mama, when I were young. I would not a-had this low-down race to run", I get the chills!
The sheer musicianship, not to mention the excellent crooning and detailed lyrics, that Lonnie Johnson is known for, are enough to warrant this disc a five-star rating. Even though "Toothache Blues" is a bit irritating, this is an incredible disc which everyone should own. Honestly, the one essential Lonnie Johnson purchase is the box set of his which I previously reviewed. However, if you can't afford that, you might want to pick this disc up. This is simply unforgettable stuff.
Decent Blues Artist With A Unique Style
James "Blood" Ulmer is a great guitar player, but only a decent Blues artist. He is mainly known for jazz guitar and experimental music. "Geechee Joe" and "Where Did All The Girls Come From" are very enjoyable, and Ulmer certainly has his own style of singing. The only artist whose vocals are anything like those of Ulmer is John Lee Hooker. "Sittin' On Top Of The World" is very well done. This is modern Blues, to be sure, and doesn't resemble Patton or Robert Johnson in the slightest way. Still, if you are looking for something unique, and are a musician yourself, you might appreciate this record more than I do. Ulmer performs "Sittin' On Top Of The World" on the "Lightnin' In A Bottle" dvd and does an excellent job, by the way.
Subtle Pink Anderson Crafts Beautiful Lyrics
On "The Titanic", "Betty And Dupree" and "John Henry", the subtle Pink Anderson crafts beautiful lyrics. His guitar playing is complex, though not played at a fast pace, and his singing is homely. This is perhaps my favorite of the three discs of his that were released in the post-World War II era. The version of "John Henry" on this album is up there with Furry Lewis' version from his wonderful "Shake 'Em On Down" album. I strongly recommend picking up this disc, as it serves as a reminder of the black ballad tradition that was nearly extinguished by the Blues, as the liner notes keenly mention.
I am a rather eclectic human being. I enjoy classic foreign films and studying East Asian religions.
My life changed after listening to Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions cd and going out and buying "Sleepy" John Estes and Muddy Waters records.