There was an article on the web the other day about a record store owner coming across a 78 of Robert Johnson’s “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and its being valued at somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000. Record prices sure seem to have gone through the roof, and this one is by no means one of the rarest or most expensive. I was kind of underwhelmed when I first heard a dub of this record on a Folkways collection (see top picture) in the mid-sixties, probably because by that time I’d already discovered “Dust My Broom” and “Dust My Blues,” a couple of the many storming versions of Johnson’s song that Elmore James seemingly made a career of. Anyway, the article got me to thinking of favorite Robert Johnson songs. Here’s one, made famous in 1969 by the Rolling Stones and Mick Taylor’s slide guitar solo: “Love In Vain,” unadorned, wistful, without hope.
This early, rough-and-tumble single of “My Own Fault, Darlin’” was recorded at Tuff Green’s house in Memphis, January 1952. Despite the vibes, it’s a great performance, with terrific, nasty guitar and tortured vocals, sounding a world apart from the better known remake of 1960.
Muddy Waters at his second commercial recording session (unissued at the time) trying on the Lester Melrose model for size. It would soon be discarded for Muddy’s own tougher and at once more modern and more archaic style, a real synthesis of the delta country blues of his mentors and the big city blues of his new home town of Chicago. Next stop: Aristocrat.
Many years ago, when I was just a blues- and folk-discovering squirt, hearing the Bright Light Quartet’s lilting vocals on “Sweet Roseanne” (on one of the Alan Lomax-produced “Southern Journey” series LPs) was one of the signal finds of that time. The LPs, on Prestige, came out a year after the “Southern Folk Heritage Series” on Atlantic, and both labels issued music recorded during the extensive field trips Mr Lomax made throughout the southern United States in 1959 and 1960. The Bright Light Quartet were a group of menhaden fishermen from Weems on the eastern shore of Virginia and were made up, on various recordings, of Shedrick Cain, James Campbell, Arnold Fisher, Laurence Hodge, and Robert Beane. Most of the songs here originally came out on Southern Journey 5: Deep South . . . Sacred and Sinful, Southern Journey 8: The Eastern Shores, and Southern Journey 9: Bad Man Ballads. In 1997 Rounder Records began reissuing the Lomax field trips on CD under the series title “Southern Journey” and a few more unissued Bright Lights tunes turned up on those CDs.
Sweet Roseanne / The Prayer Wheel / Straighten ’Em
Po’ Lazarus / Hey, Hey, Honey / Menhaden Chanteys
I’m Tired / Just Beyond the River / Christian Automobile