Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blind Snooks

Snooks Eaglin- New Orleans Street Singer (Bonus Tracks)

Album Review:
"Ford "Snooks" Eaglin's first released recordings, the ones collected here, suggested to the world that Eaglin was a great lost country-blues player when he was, in fact, an excellent electric guitar player and a gospel-influenced singer who much preferred playing R&B with a band. When folklorist Harry Oster heard Eaglin busking with his guitar on a street in the French Quarter in 1958, he whisked him over to Louisiana State University and recorded the tracks collected here, either assuming that Eaglin was a folk artist, or possibly even asking him to portray one for the sake of the recording. Either way, New Orleans Street Singer was a revelation when it was released by Folkways Records a year later in 1959, presenting to the world a gifted guitar player and a naturally soulful singer who brought a kind of jazzy New Orleans feel and groove to the folk-blues standards he was covering. The album is no less a revelation in the 21st century in this expanded edition from Smithsonian Folkways, although hindsight allows us to realize that the folk stance was probably more Oster's preference than Eaglin's. The guitar work is quick and fluid, with lead bursts that surprise and delight, continually settling on unexpected but highly effective chordal resolves (the original instrumental "Sophisticated Blues" is a case in point), and the singing throughout is steady and informed, sounding a bit like Ray Charles, with tinges of both gospel and jazz phrasing. In Eaglin's hands traditional fare like "Saint James Infirmary," the near-ragtime "High Society," and the familiar "Mama, Don't You Tear My Clothes" (a variant of "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down") all become reborn and re-formed into definitive versions. The seven additional tracks expand the original album to around 70 minutes in length, and the alternate takes included of "Careless Love," "Driftin' Blues," and "The Lonesome Road" show that Eaglin didn't necessarily approach a song the same way twice in a row."

Download Link:


lemonflag said...

Thank you so much for your info on this album.
I bought this LP in 1964. It was one of my favourites, I played it often. Time passed and I saw other albums by someone using the same name. When I heard them they sounded so different. Now the mystery has been solved. It only took me 46 years to find out it has always been the same person. I am so glad he decided to record that first album, even though it might have been different than his usual style I have treasured it for a long time. My vinyl has seen better days and this posting will get burnt soon and I can enjoy Snooks as a New Orleans Street Singer all over again.

Hard Luck Child said...

Lemonflag, are you a writer? Your comment just made me cry.

"Time passed and I saw other albums by someone using the same name. When I heard them they sounded so different. Now the mystery has been solved. It only took me 46 years to find out it has always been the same person."

This is an absolutely beautiful quote. I was reading the liner notes to a Johnny Shines album, and Pete Welding talked about asking Johnny to give a song he did in the studio another shot because the lyrics were so brilliant. Welding must have forgotten to hit record or maybe the tape ran out. Johnny said he'd try again, but Welding would have to play the tape back for him because Johnny had no clue about the lyrics he sang.

Elijah Wald wrote about how Robert Johnson's songs were very well thought-out and calculated. That may be true, but many of these men also sang what they felt at any given moment. These men were such masters of their craft that there was, on some glorious occasions, no knowledge of the words that were sung moments ago. Such was the magic of the true Country Blues.

I'm sure that much could be written comparing Country Blues and Zen Buddhism. Perhaps one of us should give it a shot.

lemonflag said...

Thank you for the nice remarks.
I spent my working life in the "numbers" trade, in the money markets dealing foreign exchange in London and in New York.
I am a voracious reader and always had the idea that I had a book inside me, like so many others.
No I am not a writer by trade. My first love is music (lots of words there) so I guess I'll keep listening and keep dreaming.

Hard Luck Child said...

Well, I'm shocked that you have no professional writing experience. I'm glad you liked the Eaglin. Anyone else you'd like to hear?

lemonflag said...

Have you ever heard Kermit the frog sing "It's not easy being green"?
I read somewhere that Ray Charles had made a recording of that song. Can you imagine the emotions and feelings he must have had singing that song against his expiriences as a black man. I would really like to hear that.
How's that for an impossible request?