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Pee Wee Crayton: Blues Guitar Magic, The Modern Legacy, Vol. 2

Ed Kopp By

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Some of the most sophisticated blues was recorded during that interval following World War II before rock 'n roll took America by storm. Pee Wee Crayton was one of the leading guitar innovators during that period, and his pioneering style is well represented on this disk.

The Modern Legacy, Volume 2, Blues Guitar Magic is not quite as strong as its precursor Volume 1 (1996), but it comes close. This one is dominated by slow, enticing numbers and jump blues instrumentals — the remainder of Crayton's output for Modern Records. Among the 25 tracks are some of Crayton's hits, various B sides, and a few unreleased gems waxed between 1949 and 1952.

Though tutored by fellow Texan T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton was actually the more assertive axeman. Crayton infused Walker's swinging style of blues with a new kind of energy channeled through his Epiphone amplified guitar. In the early '40s, Crayton moved to Oakland, where he became one of the founders of West Coast blues while helping to blaze the trail for rock 'n roll guitarists. (Chuck Berry borrowed heavily from Crayton's style of playing, though he has never admitted so publicly.) Ironically, Crayton's popularity waned in sync with rock 'n roll's emergence.

Crayton's guitar playing is scintillating on this retrospective collection, and his high-pitched vocals are nearly as soulful. Included are two of Crayton's biggest hits: "I Love You So," a sweet, sumptuous tune, and "Texas Hop," a jumpin' instrumental featuring a rockin' guitar solo and wailing sax . "Texas Hop" is proof positive that Pee Wee Crayton was an important link between T-Bone Walker's blues and Chuck Berry's rock. The disk also contains three tracks never before released, as well as several instrumentals that successfully recreate the feeling Crayton established with his biggest-selling hit "Blues After Hours" (found on Volume 1 ).

Pee Wee Crayton never got the attention or respect he deserved during his lifetime (he died in 1985), but many guitarists still cite him as a primary influence. Contemporary Crayton lovers include Dave Specter, Shuggie Otis and Harry Kaiser. Most importantly for blues fans, Pee Wee's early music holds up very well 50 years after it was recorded.

Title: Blues Guitar Magic, The Modern Legacy, Vol. 2 | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Ace/Westside

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