119

Scrapper Blackwell: Mr. Scrapper's Blues

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
As one half of what was the easily most popular blues team of the Pre-War era, Scrapper Blackwell tasted the fruits of fame and fortune early in his career. His partnership with pianist/vocalist Leroy Carr turned in more ‘race record’ hits for Vocalion than any other act in the label’s talent stable. Sadly the duo’s relationship, both professional and personal, eventually soured when the dual sins of hard liquor and hard living caught up with them. They consigned Carr to the coroner and forced Blackwell to hit the bricks in search of work after a brief and ultimately fizzled solo stint with Bluebird. A quarter century passed until this gig for the Prestige subsidiary Bluesville marked another brief, but welcome return to the recording arena.

Taped at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio, there is a surprisingly coarse edge to the session that works well with Blackwell’s rough, unadorned style. His picking chops are largely intact and his stentorian strums ring out with a healthy immediacy on such standard melancholy fare as “Blues Before Sunrise” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Whether he’s singing a humorous retooling of the old nursery rhyme “Little Boy Blue’ or recounting the bleak existence of life lived in the wardrobe of prison grays (“Penal Farm Blues”), his skillful fretwork frames each tune with a perimeter of dynamically placed chords. The two instrumental blues (each named for its respective root key) offer the most telling evidence of his sustained prowess. His hoarse, world-weary voice suggests the most noticeable toll the years had taken on his sound. Gone is the cocksure inflection inherent in his youthful sides cut for Bluebird. In its place is the mature depth and resignation of a man who’s survived a litany of hard times.

“Little Girl Blues” and “Shady Lane” give Blackwell’s piano abilities some purchase and he shows himself a competent, if not particularly adventurous practitioner. As a swan song for one of the most instrumental figures in early blues, this Prestige date is a model of both taste and distinction. Recorded when Blackwell’s powers were still up to par, it stands in strong contrast to the trend that exists today where artists far past their prime are still encouraged to retread tired material as the tapes roll on.

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

Track Listing: Goin

Personnel: Francis

| Record Label: Bluesville | Style: Blues


Shop

More Articles

Read Circles CD/LP/Track Review Circles
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Windmills CD/LP/Track Review Windmills
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Ugly Beautiful CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beautiful
by David A. Orthmann
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Trickster CD/LP/Track Review Trickster
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Caipi CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 24, 2017
Read United CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Alba" CD/LP/Track Review Alba
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 7, 2016
Read "Landed in Brooklyn" CD/LP/Track Review Landed in Brooklyn
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Four Plus Three" CD/LP/Track Review Four Plus Three
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Upbeat And Sweet" CD/LP/Track Review Upbeat And Sweet
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 13, 2017
Read "Brian Bromberg" CD/LP/Track Review Brian Bromberg
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 28, 2016
Read "Porcupine Meat" CD/LP/Track Review Porcupine Meat
by James Nadal
Published: September 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!