Saturday, February 15, 2014

SOMETHING NEW – A REVIEW

We are not quite two months into the new year and I would be derelict if I let any more time go by without writing about the new 2014 calendar and accompanying CD from Blues Images. Titled Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s Vol. 11 the calendar features a dozen full size illustrations—advertisements, photographs, line drawings—all adapted for presentation in the square format of the calendar, one for each month. The year starts off with an amazing, full length photo of Henry Thomas (Ragtime Texas) that is so clear you can see his eyeballs and, around his neck, his panpipes. Although it was taken from an old advertising flyer rather than a glossy photograph and is somewhat broken up by the enlarged halftone dots of the original reproduction it is the first clear look we’ve ever had of Thomas. Similarly there are nice reproductions, also from flyers, of photographs of Furry Lewis and Mother McCollum, a beautiful autographed portrait of Bessie Smith probably taken from a photographic print, as well as the usual illustrated record ads (primarily from Paramount) that Blues Images is famous for and featuring releases by Charley Patton, the Mississippi Sheiks, Washboard Walter and others. This year, the CD has 24 tracks and contains some of the most outstanding music yet in this series. There are twelve songs that accompany each illustration for the year and another dozen that are either B-sides or very rare recent record finds. The sound, by Richard Nevins of Yazoo, is stunning, and a few of the records almost sound like they came from masters rather than old 78s. The two Charley Patton tracks have never sounded better, and “Bull Doze Blues” by Henry Thomas also sounds terrific. There are rare tracks by Washboard Walter, Blind “Gussie” Nesbitt, George Carter, and Blind Percy. Also featured are both sides of the final missing Blind Blake 78, “Miss Emma Liza”/“Dissatisfied Blues” and the recently found “When You Dream Of Muddy Water”/“Up On The Hill Blues” by Edward Thompson (released as by Tenderfoot Edwards). The Blake and Thompson records are in bad shape but are still quite listenable and best of all they are terrific performances. The pop song “Miss Emma Liza” has Blind Blake showboating with scatting, tee-hee-hees, rapping knuckles, and his trademark raggy guitar accompaniment. Edward Thompson only recorded six sides and “When You Dream of Muddy Water” is, for my money, his best record and easily my favorite tune on this CD. Then, there is the ultra-rare “Bedside Blues” by Jim Thompkins (his only recorded side) with its unique “musical saw”-sounding slide guitar. I could go on and on about this year’s Classic Blues Artwork package, but you really should see and hear it for yourself. Hurry on over to http://bluesimages.com and order yours today. You won’t be disappointed.



Jim Thompkins • Bedside Blues • 1930

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