Various: Frett'n the Blues: Best of the Great Blues Guitarists

Ed Kopp By

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Chicago,The Blues,Today! is the indispensable CD for any music fan interested in an overview of ‘60s Chicago blues. That said, Frett’n The Blues is a decent sampler, too, and a good buy considering it delivers 77 minutes of classic blues on one CD.

With 21 cuts lifted from some of Vanguard’s finest ‘60s recordings (including six from Chicago,The Blues,Today! ), Frettin’ is a good introduction to various blues guitarists, most from Chicago.

My favorite tracks here belong to Otis Rush. Like Albert Collins, Rush is a left-handed guitarist who plays a right-handed guitar upside down. He's also my favorite singer among all the Chicago bluesmen, although two of his four cuts here are instrumentals. Fellow West Side axeman Buddy Guy is showcased on six tracks, including two with Junior Wells. Slow blues dominates on the Guy selections, but his skittery style of playing is well represented.

Three tracks are lifted from the great John Hammond Jr. album So Many Roads (1965) featuring the blues revivalist in an electric setting with Charlie Musslewhite (harp), Michael Bloomfield (piano) and Robbie Robertson (guitar), Levon Helm (drums) and Garth Hudson (organ) from the Band.

Also included are offerings from Elmore James' cousin Homesick James, J.B. Hutto and His Hawks, the great Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and The Siegel-Schwall Band.

The tracks featuring Hooker and Waters are hardly "the best" that these great artists recorded, but they 're interesting from an historical standpoint. Captured live at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and 1966, the Hooker song and three of Waters' four tracks find the electric blues legends playing solo with just acoustic guitar. Until the late 60s a bluesman was expected to go acoustic when he appeared at a folk festival.

There are better blues guitar samplers out there. Still, Frett'n serves as a nice introduction to some legendary guitarists and some terrific albums.


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