Backwoods Blues DOCD-5036
The complete recorded works of Sam Butler, Bobby Grant, King Solomon Hill, Lane Hardin. A compilation of stars who shone briefly and then took the dirt road home to obscurity.
If you’re a fan of pre-war blues “country blues” and have a penchant for slide guitar then this album is a must. A disc consisting of over sixty nine minutes of concentrated musical wonderment.
Good job that I didn’t live Birmingham, Alabama during the 1920s. Sam Butler alias Bo Weavil Jackson played on the street there “takin’ up nickels according to local piano store owner Harry Charles who arranged for Butler to make the long journey up to Chicago to record for Paramount. Had I have been there at the time I would end up being late for meetings, dinners, dates, parties and the like. Very late. Later than I’m already known for, without the interruption of witnessing such music being performed in the street. Having grown up in world of rock stars with mansions, limos and the occasional private jet it’s difficult to imagine what it must have been like to stand on a dusty street watching musicians such as those that appear on this album as they offered to the passing pedestrians the music that helped to spawn the careers of many of those rock stars in return for a few nickels.
The opening tracks by Jackson have all of the attack and urgency of a street singer using the power of his vocal and musical instrument techniques to capture the listener’s attention. With a mixture of blues and religious numbers Jackson proves himself, as with all of the other artists here as being an exciting and extremely competent performer. The first few bars of “You Can’t Keep No Brown” with its searing bottleneck played introduction is breathtaking. His energetic approach is also abound in one of the earliest recorded version of “When the Saints Come Marching Home”.
If there was ever a real example of the hundreds of blues artists that slipped the net of opportunity, despite their brilliance, it must be with Bobby Grant. Who was this man, who’s “Nappy Head Blues” was on a par with Son House’s early recordings? The depth and richness of his voice and slide guitar playing makes him far more worthy than just two tantalising and astonishing tracks.
As Paul Oliver explains in his booklet notes to the album King Solomon Hill who was once presumed to be from the Western states and by Big Joe Williams own admission was thought to have been a pseudonym for Williams was in fact Joe Holmes from McComb, Mississippi. Though he did move to Texas where he could be found partnering Blind Lemon Jefferson. Blind Lemon Jefferson and King Solomon Hill? Together? Playing on the street!!? Forget being late for the office, just don’t turn up.
The Solomon tracks are sublime yet somewhat menacing, wrapped in an eerie and not an altogether penetrable shroud. The delivery of his falsetto voice (reminiscent at times of Jefferson) coupled with some staggering and electrifying bottleneck playing is among some of the very best blues recorded.
The mysteries of the Backwoods are nicely rounded off with two rare sides by Lane Hardin of which nothing is known.
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