Themed compilations such as Murder. Songs From The Dark Side Of The Soul afford opportunity to hear just how diverse a range of interpretations a theme can provoke. Here the title is self-explanatory and that element of diversity exists in abundance.
Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Your Funeral My Trial" is still as irresistible as ever; the intro, in particular, is the kind of thing from which The Rolling Stones took countless cues when its time was high. Williamson's delivery is that of a storyteller, and his way with a harmonica is to this day as singular as it's always been.
Bessie Smith remains her imperious self on "Send Me To The 'lectric Chair," despite her contrition. The plea of the title is delivered with more than a sense of remorse, but also the thought of a ninety-nine year jail sentence holds no appeal.
Comparison between Smith's performance recorded on March 3, 1937 and Memphis Minnie's reading of "Biting Bug Blues" from two years earlier amounts to a case against the idea that the blues in that decade was already in a state of perpetual development. Of the two it's Minnie's performance that by present day standing is the more contemporary sounding, for all of its adherence to the traditional form.
Louis Armstrong first cut "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You" in the company of a largely anonymous big band in April of 1931. On the version here he's alongside Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five for a reading which, whilst it has its meritsnot the least of them being the good-natured joshing between the two principalsdoesn't possess the joy of spontaneity that the earlier recording does.
Champion Jack Dupree was, in all likelihood, not a man for such reflection, but that's of no relevance to the life-affirming quality of his music. From April 18, 1945, "I'm Going Down With You" is a stately roll enlivened further by the man's self-deprecating humor.
Blind Boy Fuller also knew a thing or two about that same attribute, and he proves it here on "Pistol Slapper Blues." Unusually for the artists on this compilation, Fuller actually served time in prison for shooting his wifein the leg, as opposed to fatallybut this did not hinder him from being one of the most prolifically recorded pre-World War Two bluesmen; between 1935 and 1950 he cut approximately 120 sides.
Gamblin' Bar Room Blues 2; Frankie And Johnny; Your Funeral My Trial; Seven Skeletons Found In The Yard; Prisoner's Plea; Bandsman Shooting Case; 44 Blues; Biting Bug Blues; Send Me To The 'lectric Chair; Down In The Willow; Pistol Slapper Blues; Poor Naomi Wise; Bloodstains On The Wall; Boom, Boom, Out Goes The Light; You Rascal You (I'll Be Glad When You're Dead); I'm Going Down With You; Pretty Polly; Stack-A-Lee Parts 1 & 2; Bob McKinney; Rose Conley; Strange Fruit; Got The Blues For Murder Only; The Fugitive's Lament.
Jimmie Rogers; Ethel Waters; Sonny Boy Williamson; Lord Executor;
Billy Boy Arnold; Wilmouth Houdini & His Humming Birds; Roosevelt Sykes "The Honey Dripper"; Memphis Minnie; Bessie Smith & Her Blue Boys; Wade Mainer & Zeke Morris; Blind Boy Fuller; A'nt Idy Harper & The Coon Creek Girls; Honeyboy; Little Walter & His Jukes; Louis Armstrong with Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five; Champion Jack Dupree; The Stanley Brothers; Archibald; Henry Thomas "Ragtime Texas"; G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter; Billie Holiday; Lonnie Johnson; The Delmore Brothers.