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Scrapper Blackwell was a pioneering blues guitar genius possessing a technique that made most of his peers green with envy. Sadly, as if living the lyrics of one of his song, his career took a mortal blow with the passing of his musical partner Leroy Carr. Carr and Blackwell were the earliest and most successful blues duo regularly charting hits on the race records sales circuit. When Carr died of liquor-related illness Blackwell’s similar demons caught up with him and caused him to drop out. Fortunately numerous forays as a solo artist coupled his years with Carr, as this colorful collection from Catfish makes clear. While these records never came close to matching the popularity of his more celebrated sides with the pianist they do offer an undiluted aperture into his incredible fretwork.
Blackwell’s arsenal of string effects celebrated the full range of his instrument from deep bass string plucks to skillful treble runs and near virtuosic solos were a regular part of his repertoire. His vocals favored a wizened warble well suited to the directness of his string play. The 21 tracks contained here run the gamut of his talents ranging from the enigmatic hokum of “Be-Da-Da-Bum” to the purely instrumental fireworks of the “D Blues.” Several of the tunes also feature Blackwell on piano, an instrument he had no reason to play on his more popular recordings, but which he shows himself adept at just the same.
An added bonus is the relatively clear sound of the transfers, taken from original Vocalion, Varsity and Champion acetates. Virtually all of Blackwell’s numerous and nimble turns of phrase are audible in the resulting mix. Whether he was a more talented performer than his partner Carr is moot, what matters most is the music they made together and apart. Catfish has done blues fans a great service by compiling this important facet of the both the duo and Blackwell’s legacy.
Catfish on the web: www.catfishrecords.co.uk
Track Listing: Kokomo Blues/ Penal Farm Blues/ Be-Da-Da-Bum/ Back Door Blues/ Morning Mail Blues/ Down South Blues/ D Blues/ Blues That Make Me Cry/ Wayback Blues/ A Blues/ Motherless Boy Blues/ Alley Sally Blues/ Blue Day Blues/ Texas Stomp/ Trouble Blues, pt. 1/ Trouble Blues, pt. 2/ Non Skin Tread/ Hard Time Blues/ My Old Pal Blues/ Bad Liquor Blues/ Rambling Blues.