Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

142

Various Artists: Chicago in Mind

Ed Kopp By

Sign in to view read count
Chicago is best known for the electric blues style that arose there during the 1940s and continues to thrive today. Less celebrated is an earlier form of Chicago blues that originated in the 1920s. This acoustic style achieved great popularity during the Depression years when Southern blacks flocked to Chicago seeking jobs in the city’s factories, stockyards and slaughterhouses. (Chicago’s slaughterhouses have long been alluded to in blues songs. Think of how frequently you’ve heard the term "killing floor" in a blues context.)

Chicago In Mind is an entertaining collection of songs recorded between 1923 and 1949. Life in Chicago is the subject of many of these tunes, with some nifty piano instrumentals lending variety to the 23-track collection. While the CD provides an overview of early Chicago blues, it also documents the late-‘40s transition period when Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and a handful of other musicians pioneered the electric style of Chicago blues that’s since attracted millions of fans worldwide.

Some contemporary critics have panned early Chicago blues as light entertainment overly influenced by Vaudeville and too disengaged from the emotional lives of the people. It’s true these "race records" often coupled hokum lyrics with jazzy, syncopated melodies. Since this music was most often played at rent parties, the songs frequently dealt with drinking and carousing. But no one who listens to this CD can criticize the musicianship. Moreover, many of the songs truly did communicate the fears and joys of the city’s black populace.

Because many of Chicago’s early blues musicians were rural people who migrated to the big city, their music mixed the down-home with the citified. This dichotomy is evident in Papa Charlie Jackson’s "Maxwell Street Blues" (1925), the first nationally distributed blues 78 by a male singer. The song finds the dapper Jackson strumming a rural-sounding banjo while he pleads with the police to release his girlfriend, who’s been arrested for soliciting at the Sunday street market – a decidedly urban activity. On "Chicago Moan," the guitar great Tampa Red warns, "If you got a good woman/Here’s a lesson I give to you/Don’t carry her to Chicago/Men will take her ‘way from you."

Flamboyant piano players, including boogie-woogie masters Jimmy Blythe, Cow Cow Davenport and Albert Ammons, dominate the earliest songs in this collection. Recorded in 1937, Big Bill Broonzy’s "New Shake ‘Em on Down" foreshadows the modern Chicago blues and even features an electric guitarist. With drums, piano, and Muddy Waters on electric guitar, Little Johnny Jones’ "Big Town Playboy" (1949) presents the full-fledged combo style we recognize as modern Chicago blues. Ironically, this new style was rawer than its Chicago antecedents and thus more faithful to the blues’ Delta roots.

With wonderful performances by various guitarists, pianists, harp players and singers (Ida Cox, Sonny Boy Williamson, Washboard Sam, Sunnyland Slim, Big Maceo, Snooky Prior, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Robert Nighthawk and Little Walter), Chicago In Mind is an excellent sampler of pre-1950 Chicago blues.

Track Listing: Ida Cox - Chicago Bound Blues; Priscilla Stewart - Mecca Flats Blues; Jimmy Blythe

Personnel: See Track Listing

Title: Chicago in Mind | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Catfish Records (UK)

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Solo a Genoa CD/LP/Track Review Solo a Genoa
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 18, 2018
Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Reaching Out CD/LP/Track Review Reaching Out
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 18, 2018
Read The Songbook Project CD/LP/Track Review The Songbook Project
by Don Phipps
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "New Horizons" CD/LP/Track Review New Horizons
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 3, 2018
Read "Fly Or Die" CD/LP/Track Review Fly Or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Smoke" CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "Behind The Mist" CD/LP/Track Review Behind The Mist
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "The Singles" CD/LP/Track Review The Singles
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke" CD/LP/Track Review The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: December 26, 2017