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Author Topic: "Red River Blues--1934--1943", Traveling Man TM CD 08  (Read 771 times)

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Offline Johnm

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"Red River Blues--1934--1943", Traveling Man TM CD 08
« on: October 27, 2014, 01:00:04 PM »
"Red River Blues, 1934--1943", Traveling Man TM CD 08
Program:  Blind Joe/When I Lie Down, Blind Joe/In Trouble, Reese Crenshaw/Trouble, Robert Davis/Poor Joe Breakdown, Jimmie Owens/Not Satisfied, Willie Williams/Red River Blues, J. Wilson/Barrel House Blues, Allison Mathis/Mama you Goin' To Quit Me, Jimmie Strothers/Goin' To Richmond, Smith Band/Fort Valley Blues, Buster Brown/War Song, Gus Gibson/Milk Cow Blues, Sonny Chestain/Po' Boy Long Way From Home, Buster Brown/I'm Gonna Make You Happy, Gus Gibson/Railroad Song, James Sneed's Washboard Band/Southern Rag, Allison Mathis & Jesse Stroller/John Henry, Gabriel Brown/Talking In Sebastapol, Booker T. Sapps/Alabama Blues Part 1, Booker T. Sapps/The Weeping Worry Blues, Willy Flowers/Levee Camp Holler, Booker T. Sapps/Boot That Thing

I was motivated to pick up this CD, a re-issue of recordings made in the East Coast states of Virginia south to Florida for the Library of Congress, after noticing just how many terrific performances I was finding on youtube came from it.  The British Traveling Man label put it out in 1991, and a wonderful collection and very well curated one it is, with a wide range of styles and instrumental combinations included in its generous program.

Blind Joe, who opens the set, was recorded in the State Penitentiary in Raleigh, in 1934, where he was evidently serving time for bigamy (?!).  His two tracks show him to be a spectacular guitarist, and probably the most successful one ever in capturing the touch and tone of Blind Blake.  Reese Crenshaw's "Trouble" is one of the most original Country Blues performances in G position in standard tuning ever recorded--he has enough material on the song for three or four normal performances.  Other solo guitar performances that rate special mention are Robert Davis's beautiful instrumental, "Poor Joe Breakdown", Allison Mathis's slide tour de force, "Mama You Goin' To Quit Me", Sonny Chestain's "Po Boy Long Way From Home"  and Gus Gibson's "Railroad Song", which sounds as though he was handed an out-of-tune guitar and told to play while tape was already rolling.  In the course of the rendition, Gibson re-tunes his second and fifth strings and you can hear him checking the remainder of his strings as he goes along.  Good on him for getting the guitar well in tune and delivering a strong performance while doing it.  Jimmie Strothers, who sounds as though he was an oldster, performs an unusual song, "Goin' to Richmond", which has the progression of an 8-bar blues like "Key To The Highway", but which has all of its lengths doubled, ending up with a 16-bar blues like no other that I've heard.  Strothers' rolling accompaniment sounds like it may have come from a banjo-picking background.
The program also includes some excellent duets, like Jimmie Owens' "Not Satisfied", Willie Williams' "Red River Blues" and J. Wilson's "Barrel House Blues".  Harmonica is well-represented by Buster Brown's whose two solo numbers, "War Song" and "I'm Gonna Make You Happy", incorporate exciting wordless vocalization along with the harp and his sung lyrics.  Booker T. Sapps, or Florida, also offers some terrific harmonica playing for which he is joined by his duet partner, Roger Matthews, playing some very hard-driving guitar in Vestapol.  Small instrumental ensembles on the program include Smith Band performing "Fort Valley Blues" and James Sneed's Washboard Band doing "Southern Rag", which turns out to be a version of the song Rev. Davis recorded as "Candyman".
The variety in the program makes the CD wear especially with repeated listening.  I've enjoyed having it in my car and just listening to it whenever I hop in to go someplace.  I don't know if people are still buying CDs, but this one is worth many times its cost--it is one of the best re-issue CDs of Country Blues I have ever heard, including the great Yazoo, Origin Jazz Library, Mamlish and Herwin albums of years gone by.  Get it!

All best,
Johnm

Offline oddenda

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Re: "Red River Blues--1934--1943", Traveling Man TM CD 08
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2014, 10:13:38 PM »
John -

          Of course it's brilliant - expect nothing less from a Bruce Bastin production! When I worked with Lomax on what became "The Deep River of Song" series, I heard all the Strothers pieces, secular and sacred. There is a photo of him with a banjo and some of the recordings with same ("Blood Stained Banners of the Lord" comes to mind. I still find "Poontang Little, Poontang Small" one of the more delightful "blue" guitar blues - 1 1/2 entendre? "Richmond"is a classic.

Peter B.

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: "Red River Blues--1934--1943", Traveling Man TM CD 08
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2014, 11:13:27 AM »
This is a great compilation with a number of stand-out pieces. There's an amazing energy to that Booker T Sapps and Roger Mathews recording "Alabama Blues".

Most of the other Jimmie Strothers recordings are available on Document Records' "Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia (1936-1941)". I first heard Strothers songs via a podcast with the Otis Brothers that had clips of them playing some of his material live.

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