Distilled from a 14 record anthology originally issued only in Germany during the early 80’s the story behind this reissue is almost as intriguing as the music contained on its three silver platters. On a fall day in 1980, two Germans hopped into an old battered station wagon crammed full of portable recording equipment and a few borrowed guitars. Heading south they embarked on an odyssey (echoing Alan Lomax) to record the startling number of blues and gospel musicians contained on this set wherever they could find them. Their travels took them from vacant fields to cramped clapboard shacks, from rickety back porches to ramshackle juke joints. The majority of tunes were taped on Mississippi soil, but artists from D.C., Maryland, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee also make appearances. Best of all many of the musicians have direct lineal connections to the early giants of the pre-War blues era and aren’t shy about showing off the influences.
There are the requisite guitar pickers, but also fife and drum bands, field hollers and a fair share of oddities including Lonnie Pitchford master of the one-string amplified diddley bow (basically a wooden plank twisted with baling wire and plugged into a tiny guitar amp). He crafts an incredible trance-inducing version of Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun” on his primordial axe. Several other tunes feature the jangling lead guitar and throaty vocals of one James “Son” Thomas backed by the scraping bass lines of Cleveland “Broom Man” Jones on broom handle. Other obscure but equally brilliant stylists abound. There’s raucous street corner testifying from the likes Cora Fluker, a woman who erected a wooden church in her front yard solely for the purpose of spreading the Lord’s message, and from Flora Molton and Her Truth Band, a motley aggregate that delivers the down-home message of brotherly love via guitar, casaba, tambourine, and harmonica. The impressive array of string stylists that populate the majority of selections are rounded out by the kitchen knife wielding slide lunatic Cedell Davis and a cantankerous backwoods preacher who answers to the name Boyd Rivers.
Overall, the set is akin to a prodigious sideshow for the more arcane realms of the blues bizarre. Many of the tunes are familiar but under the passionate labors of these musician they are recast in weird and wonderful ways. These are raw and primitive renderings to be sure, but ones that are brimming with plenty of the bare veracity that make the blues so contagious in the first place. The liners are magnificent and paint the colorful lives of these performers with vividly descriptive prose. The three and a half hours and 60 tracks housed on these discs may sound like a generous helping, but the into this deep river of song for an enlightening (and sometimes harrowing) swim down the realization that there were hundreds of hours taped will leave you craving to hear more. I could go on gushing praise about these discs, but it’s just as easy to offer up this summary advice. Shell out the thirty or so bucks; shuck down to your skivvies and dive lesser traveled tributaries of the blues.
Personnel & Track Listings:
Disc One 1.) Catfish Blues- James “Son” Thomas- vocal, guitar. 2.) Bye Bye Blues- Arzo Youngblood- vocal, guitar. 3.) Gonna Cut You Loose- Eddie Cusic- vocal, guitar. 4.) You Gonna Take Sick and Die- Boyd Rivers- vocal, guitar. 5.) Maggie Campbell Blues- Boogie Bill Webb- vocal, guitar. 6.) Sittin’ On Top of the World- Sam Chatmon- vocal, guitar. 7.) Move Daniel- Cora Fluker- vocal, guitar. 8.) My Babe- Othar Turner- vocal, cane fife. 9.) Boogie Chillun- Lonnie Pitchford- one-string electric guitar. 10.) Bull Cow Blues- James “Son” Thomas- vocal, guitar. 11.) Stop and Listen Blues- Sam Chatmon- vocal, guitar. 12.) Swing, Swing- Arzo Youngblood- vocal, guitar. 13.) Jazz Boogie Woogie- Stonewall Mays- vocal, guitar. 14.) Jesus on the Mainline- Boyd Rivers- vocal, guitar. 15.) Shake Your Money Maker- Lonnie Pitchford- vocal, guitar. 16.) Rock Me Mama- James “Son” Thomas- vocal, guitar, Cleveland “Broomman” Jones- broom bass. 17.) Big Road Blues- Boogie Bill Webb- vocal, guitar. 18.) My Daddy Was a Jockey- Sam Chatmon- vocal, guitar. 19.) That’s the Boogie- Napoleon Strickland- harmonica. 20.) Vicksburg Blues- Sam Chatmon- vocal, guitar. 21.) Mississippi Moan- Walter Brown- vocal. 22.) When I Lay My Burden Down- Othar Turner & the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band: Othar Turner: vocal, cane fife, Bernice Evans, Eddie Ware, R.L. Boyce- drums. Disc Two 1.) Lonesome Road Blues- Guitar Frank- vocal, guitar. 2.) Baby Please Give Me a Break- Archie Edwards- vocal, guitar. 3.) The Road is Rough and Rocky- Archie Edwards- vocal, metal resonating guitar. 4.) Come On in My Kitchen- Guitar Slim- vocal, guitar. 5.) Bye and Bye, I’m Going to See the King- Flora Molton and the Truth Band: Flora Molton- vocal, tamborine, Ed Morris- guitar, Larry Wise- harmonica. 6.) Chimney Hill Breakdown- Guitar Frank- vocal, guitar. 7.) Railroad Bill- Guitar Frank- vocal, guitar. 8.) Chicken Can’t Roost Too High For Me- John Cephas- guitar. 9.) Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad- John Cephas- guitar, Phil Wiggins- harmonica. 10.) Do Lord Remember Me- Archie Edwards- vocal, metal resonator guitar. 11.) Jelly Roll Baker- Guitar Frank- vocal, guitar. 12.) I’m Feelin’ Lonesome- Guitar Slim- vocal, guitar. 13.) My Old Schoolmates- Archie Edwards- vocal, guitar. 14.) Lonesome Home Blues- Guitar Slim- vocal, guitar. 15.) T For Texas- Archie Edwards- vocal, ukulele. 16.) Diggin’ My Potatoes- Guitar Frank- vocal, guitar. 17.) Vacation in Heaven- Flora Molton and the Truth Band: Flora Molton- vocal, cabasa, Ed Morris- guitar, Phillip McTerry-guitar, Phil Wiggins- harmonica. Disc Three 1.) Granny Will Your Dog Bite- Othar Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band: Othar Turner- vocal, cane fife, Bernice Evans, Eddie Ware, R.L. Boyce- drums. 2.) I Laid and I Wondered- James “Son” Thomas. 3.) I Can’t Stand It- Flora Molton and the Truth Band: Flora Molton- vocal, tamborine, Ed Morris- guitar, Phil Wiggins- harmonica. 4.) Mr. Freddie Blues- Memphis Piano Red- vocal, piano. 5.) Corrine, Corrina- Hammie Nixon- vocal, harmonica, kazoo, jug. 6.) Rollin’ and Tumblin’- Lottie Murrell- vocal, guitar. 7.) She’s Tailor Made- Charlie Sangster- vocal, guitar. 8.) The Hounds- Sam “Stretch” Shields- harmonica. 9.) You Got to Move- Boyd Rivers- vocal, guitar. 10.) Let Me Play With Your Poodle- CeDell Davis- vocal, guitar. 11.) Viola Lee Blues- Hammie Nixon- vocal, harmonica. 12.) Joe’s Prison Camp Holler- Joe Savage- vocal. 13.) When the Saint’s Go Marching In- Othar Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band: Othar Turner- vocal, cane fife, Bernice Evans, Eddie Ware, R.L. Boye- drums. 14.) Spoonful- Lottie Murrell- vocal, guitar. 15.) You Got to Do the Boogie Woogie- CeDell Davis- vocal, guitar. 16.) Trouble Late Last Night- Lottie Murrell- vocal, guitar. 17.) Dry Bones in the Valley- Cora Fluker- vocal, guitar. 18.) I Got a Gal ‘Cross the Bottom- Lottie Murrell- vocal, guitar. 19.) Soon One Mornin’- Hammie Nixon- vocal, harmonica, kazoo. 20.) Levee Camp Holler- Walter Brown- vocal. 21.) Precious Lord- Boyd Rivers- vocal, guitar.
Recorded October 1 through November 30, 1980, in Washington D.C.; Capitol Heights, MD; Frederica, DE; Greensboro, NC; Como, MS; Lexington, MS; Marion, MS; Leland, MS; Pickens, MS; Hollandale, MS; Greenville, MS; Pine Bluff, AK; Macon, MS; Coldwater, MS; Somerville, TN; Brownsville, TN; Memphis, TN; Senatobia, MS; New Orleans, LA; Woodford, VA.