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After consulting his preacher to make sure there was nothing sinful about playing blues records on the radio Mr. Wright decided to give it a try. He did it six days a week almost until his death on what became one of America's longest-running radio programs. From 6 o'clock to 9, he was the 'Soul Man' playing the blues. For the last two hours he was 'Brother Early' playing gospel music - Early Wright, obituary to the DJ, WROX Clarksdale

Author Topic: Building a Country Blues CD collection  (Read 7027 times)

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Offline Murphydog

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Building a Country Blues CD collection
« on: January 10, 2005, 11:12:06 AM »
I'm really enjoying reading up on stuff in the forum, makes me realise just how much music is out there! And that brings me to a problem, there are many gaps in my collection but its often difficult to work out which release offers the best sound, selection etc. I would love some people to suggest the must haves of country blues, no artist too obvious! I'd like to try and build up a core collection covering a whole range of styles and I know you guys are just dying to help me out :D

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2005, 11:17:29 AM »
MD:

My suggestion as to a must have in your collection is all of Blind Blakes recordings, at minimum up to and including 1930. Not only is the guitar playing fantastic, but the listening is too.

I would also recommend a "greatest hits" of Blind Boy Fuller.

Best 'o luck,
Alex

Offline frankie

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2005, 11:39:49 AM »
Off the top of my head:

  • Blind Lemon Jefferson - Yazoo has the best sound, but get the complete recordings for maximum immersion (in my opinion)
  • Rev. Gary Davis - Harlem Street Singer and Early Recordings on Yazoo
  • Charlie Patton - Yazoo for best sound
  • Ramblin' Thomas - I have him on Document, there's also a Catfish release out there
  • Frank Stokes - Yazoo for best sound
  • Mississippi Sheiks - Yazoo for best sound, Document for the whole shebang
  • Leadbelly - Library of Congress recordings on Rounder or Last Sessions on Smithsonian/Folkways
  • Clifford Gibson - Yazoo
  • Furry Lewis - Yazoo
  • Papa Charlie Jackson - only source is the three volumes on Document as far as I know
  • Robert Wilkins - Yazoo
  • Blind Boy Fuller - Yazoo has one CD, but the six volumes on Document give you a "fuller" picture - heh...

Offline Johnm

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2005, 02:51:47 PM »
Hi Murphydog,
In addition to the great stuff that Alex and Frank cited, I am really partial to some more Country Blues recorded in the 1960s or late 1950s:
   * Mississippi John Hurt--Avalon Blues, on Rounder, his first post-rediscovery recordings
   * Elizabeth Cotten--Smithsonian Folkways, can't remember the title, but has "Freight Train" and "Spanish Flangdang" on it
   * Mance Lipscomb--any one of the great re-issue CDs on Arhoolie, or "Trouble In Mind" on Rhino
   * Robert Pete Williams--"Poor Bob's Blues", a terrific two-CD set on Arhoolie.
All best,
Johnm

Offline FrontPage

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2005, 03:19:47 PM »
A few years ago, we put together a rather extensive list of 'recommended' recordings, broken down into a half dozen categories. This thread may be lurking around in the Yahoo archives or perhaps from the list that preceeded our migration to Yahoo Groups. I clipped some of this info for future reference and have attached a Word document dating to October 2000. My recollection is that Rivers originated this thread and supplied much of the material included below, with edits/additions from some other members.

There have been numerous important realeases since then, and people's perspectives may have changed. But at least the categories we chose then still seem to make sense. Might an updated version of this be a good 'resource' to add to the website?



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Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline frankie

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2005, 03:58:03 PM »
?* Elizabeth Cotten--Smithsonian Folkways, can't remember the title, but has "Freight Train" and "Spanish Flangdang" on it

It's called "Freight Train and other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes".? A great record!
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 05:26:00 AM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2005, 04:42:39 PM »
You might want to look for a book entitled The New Blackwell Guide to Recorded Blues, edited by John Cowley and Paul Oliver.  It came out in 1996 and is now out of print, but in the US it may be available through your local library or through inter-library loan.  Each chapter contains an essay by an expert in the field listing 10 essential records in the chapter's genre and then short write-ups ups on 30 other records that the author considers "basic repertoire" in that style.  Subjects and authors include Songsters and Proto-Blues by Paul Oliver, Early Deep South and Mississippi River Basin Blues by David Evans, and The East Coast and Texas by Bruce Bastin.

Admittedly, the book is almost 10 years out of date.  To get an idea of what's currently available, check out the Roots & Rhythm website at www.rootsandrhythm.com for honest capsule reviews of blues CDs, including which ones sound best.

Finally, please allow me to put in a good word for one of my favorites:  Buddy Moss.  He was an excellent singer and guitar player in the style of Blind Boy Fuller.  Or, more accurately, Fuller played in Moss's style, as Moss was on the scene several years ealrier than Fuller.  I think the only Buddy Moss still available is the Document 3 CD set.  The first volume is mostly Moss with either Curley Weaver or Fred McMullen on second guitar, the second volume is mostly Moss playing solo, and the third volume is Moss playing duets with Josh White or in a small group with Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, and a washboard player.  I think the solo stuff is Moss at his best, with lots of variety, very free and expressive singing, and excellent guitar arrangements (with a right thumb to die for!).  All three volumes are on the Juke, so check out Tricks Ain't Walkin' No More and Oh Lordy Mama to see what I mean.
 
       

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2005, 06:07:14 PM »
Blind Lemon Jefferson - Yazoo has the best sound, but get the complete recordings for maximum immersion (in my opinion)
Get both. :D I'm serious...

Quote
Charlie Patton - Yazoo for best sound
And if you have the dough for all the new notes, the book, the stickers, and the complete recordings, the Revenant set. Otherwise, the JSP.
Quote
Clifford Gibson - Yazoo
Is this still in print? Otherwise, the Document.

Quote
[li]Furry Lewis - Yazoo[/li]
[li]Papa Charlie Jackson - only source is the three volumes on Document as far as I know[/li]
[li]Robert Wilkins - Yazoo[/li]
[li]Blind Boy Fuller - Yazoo has one CD, but the six volumes on Document give you a "fuller" picture - heh...[/li]
[/list]


Re. Wilkins, Furry Lewis, and Frank Stokes. JSP has their complete recordings as part of the Masters of Memphis Blues box. This gives you the complete recordings, but I have been rather disappointed by the sound of this set and am happy to have the Yazoos for cleaner versions.

Re. Fuller, again, JSP has a box but I haven't heard it since I have all the Documents. It is fewer discs than the 6 Documents as well. Is it complete? The Yazoo disc is great.

Re. Blake. Yazoo has a Best of disc I haven't heard but if it's anything like their Patton, Lemon, and McTell discs, it's a sure bet. Otherwise, JSP has a box, ripped off from the Documents.

Blind Willie McTell. Yazoo Best of, JSP has a box of all the early stuff and the Library of Congress recordings.

Memphis Jug Band. The best of the jug bands IMO, great material, great variety. Yazoo or Documents.

Henry Thomas on Yazoo.

Gotta have some St. Louis guys: Henry Townsend, Charley Jordan, Teddy Darby, Henry Spaulding et al. Yazoo had two discs, don't know if they're still in print. Otherwise there's stuff available on Document and/or Wolf.

Little Hat Jones: probably best off buying the Texas JSP set and getting Little Hat, Henry Thomas, Oscar Woods, Willie Reed and Co. Especially since I think some of the Documents are out of stock and the Yazoo Texas disc is out of print.

Charlie McCoy: highly underrated, great mando, fun tunes, Document Complete recordings.

Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe: at least vol 1 and 2 on Document. I don't like the JSP set of Minnie much since they left off some of the best material with Kansas Joe.







« Last Edit: January 10, 2005, 06:09:32 PM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2005, 07:43:50 PM »
Forgot Tampa Red. The Yazoo is good and Indigo also has a good compilation.

Scrapper Blackwell on Yazoo.

Offline Murphydog

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2005, 12:40:15 AM »
Thaks everybody, just what I'd hoped for and I'm looking out for a fingerstyle guitar too!

Offline Richard

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2005, 02:40:44 AM »
MD

You'll need some money for this lot :-X
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Murphydog

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2005, 04:00:59 AM »
First batch of  yazoos ordered What is it about the Jsp boxes that people don't like? They seem to be very good value for money.

Offline dj

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2005, 06:44:38 AM »
The earliest JSP sets were remastered by John R. T. Davies, and sounded great.  I think, for example, that their Blind Lemon Jefferson set is the best-sounding version of Blind Lemon's work.  But their more recent stuff, like their Memphis Blues box, has been less carefully mastered, and the sound is less than stellar.  In some cases, like their recent Hawaiian box, they seem to have just compiled existing CDs on other labels, rearranging the tracks a bit. 

Also, the JSP sets are inexpensive, and this shows in their packaging.  Liner notes are limited to 2 pages per disk, master numbers and release numbers are not present, and while recording place and date and personnel information is present, I've found a lot of errors in it.  You get much better notes from Yazoo and much better discographical information from Document.

I think the main complaint about the Memphis Minnie set was JSPs decision not to include the Memphis Minnie/Kansas Joe duets where Joe is the lead vocalist.  The Document disks include these tracks, and in my opinion they make for a much better musical program. 

Having said all this, I must say that I've bought quite a few of the JSP boxes, both because the corresponding Document releases are currently out of print and because the price is very attractive.
           

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2005, 07:20:54 AM »
DJ summed up my feelings about JSP pretty much. You can find better sound elsewhere for many of the artists. I think the Blind Lemon set is essential, although I was not aware that Davies remastered it and don't hear it to tell the truth. Sound is pretty much the same as the Documents to my ear and non-audiophile sound system. Sound on the Yazoo Best Of edition is quite superior. Alas it's only one CD.

The packaging can be shoddy: inaccurate notes, even missing text.

JSP also seem to be basing some of their releases on other people's work (see, for instance, the Bear Family lawsuit over the Carter Family set). Others have said the Patton set is the Revenant set with slightly different EQ. So possible dubious practices there. Especially if it were to eventually lead to those people discontinuing their restoration work. Bad news for us.

That said, I too have quite a few JSP sets. The Lemon set, as mentioned, is indispensable. The Paramount Masters is just a tremendous compilation. The Memphis set less so. Sound is noticably better on even the older Yazoos. The Minnie set even less so (omitting Kansas Joe is a crime). I just got the Texas set and it's great. While Henry Thomas is available on Yazoo, the sound is very good on the JSP and it has his complete works, with several tunes left off the Yazoo disc that are great. It has the complete (and stupendous) Rambling Thomas and I think I like the sound on this better then the Catfish release. It has the complete Little Hat Jones, who's a freakin' genius. Plus Oscar Woods, Willie Reed, and then some lesser folks like Coley Jones, Pete Harris, and Smith Casey. It's really a tremendous set and if you don't have a lot of this material,it's a no brainer.

The rate at which Document CDs are going out of stock is alarming. I can't see them coming back out with them very quickly either, which is a shame. And it also provides an opportunity for JSP to fill the gap, less carefully than Yazoo or Document, but at a much better price.

So basically, people have mixed feelings about JSP for numerous reasons.


Offline uncle bud

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Re: Building a Country Blues CD collection
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2005, 07:58:40 AM »
Speaking of gaps and Documents going out of print, it's amazing to me to see all the kerfuffle about Document's Ragtime Blues Guitar, with a copy going for nearly $50 on eBay. This fuss is mainly, I presume, to get the Willie Walker and the William Moore tracks (surely not the Chicken Wilson and Skeeter Hinton tracks!). I doubt it's for Bayless Rose, though I think Rose is hugely fun and overlooked. Anyway, for those who desperately need at least some of this, you might want to investigate the Indigo release Raggin' the Blues: Essential East Coast Blues. This has 3 of the 8 Moore tracks and 2 of the 3 Walker tracks (erroneously labelled on the Amazon link above as by Sam Brooks), the third being a 2nd take of South Carolina Rag. It also has both Tarter and Gay tracks. No Bayless Rose unfortunately. No Chicken and Skeeter either, but you're not missing much. It does have 4 great Carl Martin tracks (erroneously labelled on the Amazon link as by Roland Armstrong), 3 Luke Jordan, some Josh White that's not boring (Good Gal, Red River), 2 Gary Davis blues, and Julius Daniels 99 Year Blues (also mislabelled at Amazon), and some early Brownie. It's a great compilation and usually cheap as dirt.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2005, 08:01:13 AM by uncle bud »

 


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