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Preserving Country Blues through Education, Performance and Technology
Slack
November 17, 2011, 06:23:05 PM by Slack
Views: 1027 | Comments: 0

Angola Prisoners' Blues
Written by John Miller

Angola Prisoners' Blues--Arhoolie CD 419       

This CD was recorded by Dr. Harry Oster at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana in the 1950s.  Arhoolie has released two other CDs of material recorded by Dr. Oster at Angola in the same period, one focusing on work songs and the other on spirituals. 

  The program starts with Robert Pete Williams performing his "Prisoner's Talking Blues", a free-associated recitation over riffing in D on Dr. Oster's twelve-string guitar.  Robert Pete expressed himself so poetically in the normal course of affairs that it is hard to believe he didn't plan out lines like:  "I don't keep well no more.  I keeps sickly.I takes a lot of medicine, but it looks like it don't do no good.  All I have to do is pray; that's the only thing'll help me here.  One foot in the grave, look like, and the other'un out.  Sometime looks like my best day gotta be my last day."

Matthew "Hogman" Maxey follows with a version of "Stagolee", likewise played on Dr. Oster's twelve-string.  Hogman's monicker derived apparently from his mistaken notion as a child that he was a hog doctor.  His version of "Stagolee" is terrific.  Played in E standard, it shares much of the same vocal phrasing as Lloyd Price's popular version from the '50s, but Hogman's time is so driving, fierce really, that the song is given an e...
Slack
November 17, 2011, 06:22:21 PM by Slack
Views: 1765 | Comments: 0

This Old Hammer - John Miller       
Written by Andrew Mullins

This Old Hammer - John Miller
Orb Discs Orb-1010


This Old Hammer is John Miller's first solo blues outing in over three decades, so one can understand how some people may have been getting a little impatient waiting for this record to appear. His LPs made for Blue Goose in the 1970s are highly regarded -- and nearly impossible to find. Shortly after those albums, John was off exploring different musical directions, with projects over the years ranging from jazz to bluegrass to world music. While those who have had the opportunity to see him perform live in recent years have been able to catch tantalizing snippets of this new blues album at a gig or workshop, finally that music is gathered in one place.

(I should say in the interest of full disclosure that I know John and have studied with him at the Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop for years. Like a lot of people, a great number of them his fellow musicians, I admire his talent and the depth of his knowledge of country blues styles. But given the strength of this album, any possible bias I might have seems irrelevant to me.)

The overall creative approach taken on This Old Hammer is to reinvent country blues originals that have caught John's ear over the years. As he explains in his notes for the CD, "I wanted to retain particul...
Slack
November 17, 2011, 06:21:15 PM by Slack
Views: 1810 | Comments: 8

Ari Eisinger - That Will Never Happen No More - Guitar Blues and Ragtime from the 1920s and 1930s       
Written by Andrew Mullins

Ari Eisinger - That Will Never Happen No More - Guitar Blues and Ragtime from the 1920s and 1930s, Independent      

For the uninitiated, hearing Ari Eisinger the first time can be a shock. The authenticity with which he recreates some of the best and instrumentally complex country blues is downright spooky. It can be fun to watch professionalsí reaction as well. A little jaded by years of experience and road-weariness, they might smirk when this small, thin man who looks more like an accountant than a blues musician walks out on stage with his Gibson guitar. Those faces change quickly when he starts to play. Itís a look that says, ďIíve never heard anyone do that.Ē And itís true. There is no one Iíve encountered who plays Blind Blake with such authority and who remains so faithful to the spirit and style of the original music. Hearing the Philadelphia-based guitarist is a rare event though -- he performs infrequently and records even less often, with this, his second CD, coming far too many years after his first release, You Donít Understand.
As with his first record, there are a number of Blake tunes on this collection, and this time round Eisinger adds the blues of another one of his heroes to the mix, with three tracks from Texas legend Blind Le...
Slack
November 17, 2011, 06:20:11 PM by Slack
Views: 972 | Comments: 2

Roy Book Binder - LIVE at the Fur Peace Station
Written by Andrew Mullins

Roy Book Binder - LIVE at the Fur Peace Station, PL CD 7005-5
       
Roy Book Binder has been on the road and playing country blues for audiences since the blues revival of the 60s, when he was a student of Rev. Gary Davis. With all of that traveling and performing, he's had a lot of time to perfect his stage routine. Listeners to Live at Fur Peace Station, his latest release, are the beneficiaries of this long experience and polish. Recorded in performances from 2002 to 2004 at the concert hall of Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch, Book Binder is in fine form, playing his brand of raggy, east coast country blues and deadpanning his way hilariously through the stories and one-liners for which he's become well-known. "The Book" is a modern country blues character if ever there was one, and for those not yet familiar with his style, this record is probably as good an introduction as you can get, short of catching him live.

Book Binder's last live album was the 1994 Rounder release, Don't Start Me Talkin'. That's a good record, but this one is even better, with a more interesting set of songs, in my opinion -- and Book Binder seems very much at home at the Fur Peace Ranch. There are actually a few echoes of the earlier CD in the stage repartee here, working essentially as in-jokes. It's worth...
Slack
November 17, 2011, 06:19:11 PM by Slack
Views: 528 | Comments: 0

Love, Murder and Mosquitos - Red House
Written by Andrew Mullins

Love, Murder and Mosquitos - Red House RHR CD 172
      
It's hard to believe it's been five years since Paul Geremia's last record, The Devil's Music. That's too long for a musician of this calibre to go without a release. Finally we have Love, Murder and Mosquitos.

  There's quite a bit of 12-string guitar on this album, with a good eight tracks - almost half the CD - played on that great-sounding twelve he restored. The record is probably more strictly country blues than his previous release - no Ray Charles or Percy Mayfield - although aside from John Hurt's 'Frankie' and Patton's 'Pony Blues' there aren't many songs from the country blues Top 40 (which is just fine with me). Even 'Frankie' is given a rather unusual treatment on 12-string, and 'Pony Blues' features Martin Grosswendt on fiddle to distinguish it from the usual take on this Patton classic, while at the same time recalling Patton's work with Henry Sims.

Participants from the Port Townsend Workshop when Geremia was in attendance a couple years back may remember his take on some of the tunes that appear here. Pink Anderson showed him 'Meet Me in the Bottom,' which opens the record, played on 12-string, and which Paul played at Port Townsend in the 12-string concert he did with Ernie Hawkins. Blind Blake's 'Tootie ...
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