79

Smoky Babe: Hottest Brand Goin'

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Smoky Babe: Hottest Brand Goin' Blues history is littered with voices that never made it into the studio. Thanks to the industrious efforts of folklorists and fieldworkers like Alan Lomax, Chris Strachwitz, Pete Welding, Harry Oster and numerous others, many of these peripheral figures survive on tape and acetate. One such musical soul is Robert Brown, known by the sobriquet of Smoky Babe, and this disc rejuvenates one of his only records.

Though a long-time denizen of Louisiana at the time of this recording, Brown was a native of Mississippi, and his Delta roots are manifest in a hard picking style and informal vocal inflections. His chosen program is an engaging blend of standard licks superimposed with personalized lyrics. The title track is an autobiographical sketch of Smoky's job at a local Conoco gas station. Running down the pleasures of his labor over a bristling backdrop of strums and stops he extemporizes in a ringing style steeped with expressive ebullience. "Something Wrong with My Little Machine" travels Big Joe Williams' double entendre territory, sounding off with classic stanzas like "He's a deep sea diver, got a stroke just like a whale." Henry Thomas' nasal harp chimes in with greasy response to Brown's brittle chords.

Even the boll weevil comes under Brown's incisive scrutiny. Reflecting on the calamity the bugs wreaked at the turn of the century on "Insect Blues" he traces an agricultural thread that winds through other tracks like "Long Way from Home" and "I'm Going Back to Mississippi." "Ocean Blues" illustrates another preoccupation in the guise of Robert Johnson as Brown's strident slide work with a polished steel tube invokes strains of the legend's signature style enunciated with a vernacular of his own. Closing ranks with "Cold, Cold Snow," a tale of scorned love, the disc ends on an appropriately dour note (this is the blues after all).

Fortunately other work by Brown made it to tape in his lifetime. He shares Louisiana Country Blues (Arhoolie) with fellow Louisiana resident Herman E. Johnson and also has a few cuts on the Arhoolie compilation of Oster recordings Country Negro Jam Session. Both discs, along with this recent reissue, are well worth acquiring.

Recorded: 1961, Baton Rouge, LA.

Bluesville on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com


Track Listing: Now Your Man Done Gone/ Hottest Brand Goin'/ Something Wrong with My Machine/ Insect Blues/ Long Way From Home/ I'm Goin' Back to Mississippi/ Melvanie Blues/ Locomotive Blues/ Ocean Blues/ Boogy Woogy Rag/ Coon Hunt/ Cold, Cold, Snow

Personnel: Smoky Babe- vocals & guitar; Clyde Causey- harmonica, vocal; Henry Thomas- harmonica

Title: Hottest Brand Goin' | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Storyville Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "My Head is Listening" CD/LP/Track Review My Head is Listening
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 2, 2017
Read "Rebirth" CD/LP/Track Review Rebirth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 4, 2017
Read "Radio Luboyna" CD/LP/Track Review Radio Luboyna
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Varanda" CD/LP/Track Review Varanda
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Brückenshlag" CD/LP/Track Review Brückenshlag
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 9, 2016
Read "The Hidden Notes - Spirit Of Adventure" CD/LP/Track Review The Hidden Notes - Spirit Of Adventure
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 18, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.