[TABLE=40]

Show Notes:

West Coast blues (California blues specifically) has never gotten anywhere near the attention of Chicago blues or say Delta blues, but has been home to many leading blues performers. While the West Coast still has a thriving blues scene the scene was in it's heyday in the 1940's and 50's with most of the activity centering around the Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Bay areas. There's not much of a prewar Californian blues tradition, which is likely due to the fact that the African-American communities weren't very large in the beginning of the 20th century. The Black population swelled in the 1940s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. There was a host of labels recording blues and R&B in Los Angeles in the 1940s including Specialty, Imperial, Aladdin, and the umbrella of labels run by the Bihari brothers RPM/Modern/Kent/Flair/Crown were the most notable. Bob Geddins was a key player who operated numerous small labels like Down Town, Big Town, Irma, and others. May of these sides were leased to larger outfits like Chess, Specialty, Modern and others.

The towering figure of West Coast blues was Texas born guitarist T-Bone Walker. Walker was a key figure in the electrification and urbanization of the blues, probably doing more to popularize the use of electric guitar in the form than anyone else. Much of his material had a distinct jazzy jump blues feel, an influence that would characterize much of the blues to emerge from California in the 1940s and 1950s. Among those who were influenced by Walker were B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny "Guitar" Watson and West Coast guitar hero Lafayette Thomas who we profiled last year. Add that list Louisiana born Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Oklahoma born Jimmy Nolen, Chuck Norris, Pee Wee Crayton, Ulysses James and Goree Carter.

Pee Wee Crayton PosterAmong T-Bone's legion of disciples was Houston's Goree Carter, whose big break came when he signed to Houston's Freedom Records circa 1949. For his gis first couple of side he was billed as "Little T-Bone." Freedom issued plenty of Carter records over the next few years, and he later recorded for Imperial/Bayou, Sittin' in With, Coral, Jade, and Modern without denting the national charts. Eventually, he left music behind altogether. Technically Carter isn't a West Coast artist but I decided to lump him in as he's certainly a T-Bone disciple and I was looking for an excuse to feature his music.

Although he was certainly influenced by T-Bone Walker , Pee Wee Crayton brought enough innovation to his playing to avoid being labeled as a mere T-Bone imitator. Crayton's recorded output for Modern, Imperial, and Vee-Jay contains plenty of dazzling guitar work, especially on stunning instrumentals such as "Texas Hop," "Pee Wee's Boogie," and "Poppa Stoppa," all far more aggressive performances than Walker usually indulged in. Crayton was from Texas but relocated to Los Angeles in 1935. He signed with the L.A.-based Modern label in 1948, quickly hitting with "Blues After Hours" which topped the R&B charts in late 1948. He also hit with "Texas Hop" shortly thereafter, followed the next year by "I Love You So." After recording prolifically at Modern to no further commercial avail, Crayton moved on to Aladdin and, in 1954, Imperial. After Imperial Crayton tried to regain his momentum at Vee-Jay in Chicago. After one-off 45s for Jamie, Guyden, and Smash during the early '60s, Crayton largely faded from view until Vanguard unleashed his LP, “Things I Used to Do”, in 1971. After that, Pee Wee Crayton's profile was raised somewhat; he toured and made a few more albums prior to his passing in 1985.

Jimmy Nolen
Jimmy Nolen

Jimmy Nolen took up guitar after hearing T-Bone Walker on the radio at the age of 14 in 1948. He was soon proficient enough on his instrument to get his first electric guitar and join J.D. Nicholson & His Jivin' Five, receiving his first exposure to a recording studio in 1952. In 1955, Jimmy Wilson heard Jimmy playing at a club in Tulsa and hired him to go on the road with him and his band. When Wilson's band broke up in Los Angeles and Nolen decided to stay. He played a short time with trumpeter Monte Easter's band recording with him for Aladdin and singing on "Blues In The Evening." Possibly on recommendation from Easter or Wilson, Nolen began recording for J.R. Fullbright's Elko label in 1954 providing support for Ray Agee, J.D. Nicholson and Jimmy Wilson. In 1954 he joined Chuck Higgins band and was featured prominently on several recordings for the Dootone label. It was during this time that he contracted with Federal Records, a subsidiary of the King label and recorded his first sides under his own name. using a number of Higgins band members and other LA session men. In addition to his fine guitar work he proved himself an able singer on terrific sides such as "Wipe Your Tears", "How Fine Can You Be" an intense version of Tampa Red's "It Hurts Me Too" and instrumentals like "After Hours" and "Strollin' With Nolen." Jimmy replaced the ailing Pete "Guitar" Lewis in the Johnny Otis Band around 1957 and became very busy as a recording session guitarist, resulting in Otis's big hit, "Willie And The Hand Jive" How Fine Can You Beand other Capitol successes such as "Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me" and "In The Dark." Striking out on his own in 1960, he formed his own band and was sought after by many of the major blues stars that came into L.A. for backing when they were without their own bands. B.B. King and T-Bone Walker would always use Jimmy and his band when they were in town without their sidemen. Jimmy played throughout California and Arizona working steadily until he decided to accept James Brown's offer to join his band in 1965. His patented funky chicken scratch style can be heard on hits like "Papa' Got A Brand New Bag" and many more hits between 1965 to 1983, except for the two years he left the band to go with Brown sidemen, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley as "All the Kings Men". He was with the band in Atlanta, GA when he suffered a fatal heart attack on December 16, 1983 at the age of 48.

One of the hottest guitarists working on the coast during the 40s and 50s was Carl Pete Lewis. He was discovered by Johnny Otis in 1948 who signed him on the spot after he won a talent contest at his Barrelhouse Club at the Thursday Night Talent Hour. Otis quickly spotlighted his new discovery on the guitar workout "Midnight In The Barrelhouse" issued on Excelsior in 1948 selling well enough to be picked up by Savoy and cut a similarly themed "Thursday Night Blues" for Modern. Lewis went on to be a permanent member of Otis' band and is featured on most of Otis' sides for Modern, Savoy, Mercury, Peacock and Aladdin. Lewis also cut a batch of fine solo sides for Federal and Peacock which also showcased his considerable singing and harmonica abilities. Among the notable numbers from this period includeRaggedy Blues "Louisiana Hop", "Raggedy Blues", "Goofy Dust Blues" and "Chocolate Pork Chop Man." For Peacock he backed Johnny Ace (most notably "Pledging My Love"), Big Mama Thornton (most notably "Hound Dog") plus others. Lewis stuck with Otis throughout the 50's cutting some sides for Otis' Dig label during this period. He was eventually replaced by Jimmy Nolen in 1957. Lewis went on to play with George "Harmonica" Smith with whom he recorded for Sotoplay. He died of alcohol related problems in the early 60's.

Chuck Norris worked in Chicago until the mid-'40s, when he moved out to the West Coast. He soon became one of the most-called musicians in Hollywood. He did sessions on his own between 1947-1953, including singles for Coast, Imperial, Mercury, Aladdin, Selective and Atlantic. Some of the guitarist's best playing was on records by artists such as Percy Mayfield, Roy Hawkins and Floyd Dixon. Norris had a live record released in 1980 on the European Route 66 label.

Not only was Roy Hawkins dogged by bad luck during his career (at the height of his popularity, the pianist lost the use of an arm in a car wreck), he couldn't even cash in after the fact. When B.B. King hit the charts in 1970 with Roy Hawkins's classic "The Thrill Is Gone," the tune was mistakenly credited to the wrong composers on early pressings. Little is known of Hawkins's early days. Producer Bob Geddins discovered Hawkins playing in an Oakland, CA nightspot and supervised his first 78s for Cavatone and Downtown in 1948. Modern Records picked up the rights to several Downtown masters before signing Hawkins to a contract in 1949. Two major R&B hits resulted: 1950's "Why Do Things Happen to Me" and "The Thrill Is Gone" the following year. Hawkins recorded for the Modern and RPM imprints into 1954. After that, a handful of 45s for Rhythm and Kent were all that was heard of the Bay Area pianist. He employed some of the best West Coast guitarist of the period; Oscar Moore, Ulysses James, Chuck Norris, Lafayette Thomas all appeared on his records. He's rumored to have died in 1973.

Pete Guitar Lewis
Pete "Guitar" Lewis
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A couple of interesting items from the New York Times in the past couple of days:

After Years of Neglect, Rebirth for a Blues Singer’s House

She danced the black bottom, doled out world-weary advice and claimed to be ready with a butcher knife if she caught her lover straying. She was a whiskey-slugging contralto with raunchy songs, a sound business Counting The Blues Adsense and bisexual tastes. So a visitor to the newly opened home of Gertrude Rainey, who as Ma Rainey was the embodiment of the “big mama” blues singers of the 1920s, might be a tad disappointed to find nothing more titillating than painstakingly restored bedroom furniture and prim period wallpaper. “She had kind of calmed down by the time she moved back here,” said Fred C. Fussell, the curator of the Ma Rainey House, which opened four months ago as a small museum in this city on the Chattahoochee River. “She wasn’t living that kind of life.” Besides, said Mr. Fussell and Florene Dawkins, the chairwoman of the Friends of Ma Rainey, what is remarkable is not so much what the Ma Rainey House has on display (in fairness, there are also photos, minstrel show memorabilia, original recordings and theater invoices) but that the house is still standing.

The next item doesn't have any blues content but it's fascinating none the less.

Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words “Mary had a little lamb” on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades. The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

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Blues Legacy 1 Blues Legacy 2 Blues Legacy 3

The thought of "lost" blues recordings always gets me worked up even though I usually get disappointed with the final result. Such is the case with Chris Barber's The Blues Legacy Series: Lost & Found, a three volume series touting unreleased live recordings of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Champion Jack Dupree and Louis Jordan. According to the liner notes: "The formation of the 'Lost & Found' Series came into being; when the Jazz & Blues legend Chris Barber came across some old 1/4 inch magnetic tape. On these, he discovered the unique sounds of Sonny Boy Williamson in concert, recorded many decades ago, in England. Chris set about investigating his archives further, only to find more of these tapes…"

The bulk of the recordings were made between 1957-1964 at the very beginning of the blues boom that swept across Europe. I was always under the impression that interest in blues really took off in Europe with the inception of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962. I'm not sure what kind of blues audience there was in England in the late 1950's; I don't think labels like Chess were easy to come by back then and it wasn't until 1960 that Paul Oliver published his pioneering Blues Fell This Morning. Certainly the audiences on these recordings are enthusiastic but I would certainly be interested in more information regarding the British blues scene of the period.

Firstly, just to make clear, the 1958 Muddy Waters recordings from the Manchester Free Trade Hall have been previously issued. These are Muddy's earliest live recordings and his first tour of England. Vocally Muddy is in magnificent form, his vocals miked right up front, unfortunately his guitar is submerged in the mix. It's also too bad that Muddy's band didn't make it over with him although thankfully Otis Spann did and his piano playing, although low in the mix, is a thing of beauty. Most of the program features just Muddy, Spann and Barber's drummer Graham Burbridge which is just fine. More problematic is "Walking Thru The Park" featuring Barber's band wailing along behind Muddy with their brand of traditional jazz, a jarring contrast that simply doesn't work. Unfortunately this is emblematic of many of the recordings.

Like Muddy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is in terrific vocal form and like Muddy she suffers from a guitar that's virtually inaudible which is a real shame. Again Barber's band and Tharpe's vocals make for an incongruous mix on numbers like "Every Time I Feel The Spirit", "Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air", "Old Time Religion" where they virtually drown poor Rosetta out. Where's Lucky Millinder when you need him? The latter number plus "When The Saints Go Marching in feature white vocalist Ottilie Patterson who, to be fair, is not a bad vocalist but comes across as a bit staid. Fortunately most of the Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee sides from their 1958 date at the Manchester Free Trade Hall feature just the duo who are in reliably fine form. Several other sides from the same year are from a BBC broadcast which liberally feature Barber's band as well as Ottilie Patterson. To be honest the duo's sides have never excited me all that much although in small doses they're quite enjoyable. Similar issues plague the Sonny Boy Williamson performance from 1964. The band is present on just about all the tracks much to the detriment of Sonny Boy's subtle, nuanced blues. I believe some of these sides have been issued before but I'm not sure if it was a legitimate release. Much better are his AFBF performances of the same year backed by Sunnyland Slim, Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon.

The Jimmy Witherspoon and Howlin' Wolf sides fare much better. Witherspoon is in superb voice, delivering an aching, world weary version of "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" and his classic "Times Are Getting Tougher Than Tough" from a 1964 date that get fairly sympathetic backing. A 1980 set for Dutch Radio finds him in still superb form just prior to the cancer that would ravage his voice in his later years. Howlin' Wolf alongside trusty guitarist Hubert Sumlin are simply electrifying on a torrid "Dust My Broom" and a dramatic, powerhouse version of "May I Have A Talk With You." I have to admit that the riffing horns on "Howling For My Baby" are quite effective as Wolf storms through this one.

From a historical standpoint these are fascinating recordings but a mixed bag musically. Overall there's enough good performances to recommend these, at least the second and third volumes, although all the artists involved have better live recordings on the market. One must also give Barber his due for taking a chance on these artists at a time when the blues was anything but a sure bet.

Muddy Waters – Blow Wind Blow (MP3)

Howlin' Wolf – May I Have A Talk With You (MP3)

Jimmy Witherspoon – Have You Ever Loved A Woman (MP3)



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[TABLE=41]

Show Notes:

Today's mix show spotlights a number of recent reissues I've been listening to. For a number of years now the Fat Possum label has been issuing the field recordings of George Mitchell who roamed the southeastern states making recordings over a twenty year period from the 1960's up through the early George Mitchell Collection1980's. My first introduction to Mitchell's music was on Arhoolie's wonderful Blues My Blues Away Vol. 1 & 2 which featured music by Joe Callicott, R.L. Burnside, Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk and others. Prior to these records Mitchell's recordings appeared on LP's on specialist labels like Southland and Revival. Fat Posssum has been releasing these on 7" vinyl, for a total of 45 volumes which have also been repackaged as a box set. Some of these recordings have been repackaged onto CD and it appears just about all the recordings are available as digital downloads though emusic and Amazon. To be honest, Fat Possum's reissue of these has been rather frustrating and confusing which is why I held back on picking some of these up. I finally decided to pick up the The George Mitchell Collection box set which contains all 150 songs on each of the 45 7-inches spread out over six CD's plus a bonus CD by artists Fat Possum didn't know enough about to include in the original 7" set. I have to admit I've been a bit obsessed with these remarkable recordings and also picked up a couple of the individual CD's plus downloaded a number of songs that don't appear on the box set. On today's show we give you a small taste of these and I plan on doing an entire show around these recordings in the future that will hopefully include an interview with Mr. Mitchell himself.

From the other side of the pond I received three volumes from Chris Barber's Blues Legacy Series which contains newly discovered performances circa the late 1950's and early 1960's by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. I'm not all that surprised that these recordings surfaced (it seems to happen with some frequency) but that doesn't negate the importance of these recordings which should be of major interest to blues fans. I've also been grabbing up the the Blue Horizon series which Mike Vernon seems to be reissuing at a fast clip. Blue Horizon was a short lived UK label (1966-1971) which cut records by artists like Otis Spann, Champion Jack Dupree, Johnny Young, Eddie Boyd, Furry Lewis among many others. This has been an excellent reissue series with great notes, excellent sound and all with previously unissued cuts. The series is particularly valuable as theViolin, Sing The Blues For Me original records are long out of print and highly collectible (meaning expensive!). Today's show features selections from Johnny Young and Curtis Jones who both cut fine records for the label.

Plenty of country blues today from 1920's and 1930's as well as latter day country blues from the 1960's and 1970's. We kick things off with some blues featuring violin including two cuts off Old Hat's marvelous Violin, Sing The Blues For Me. Old Hat puts out wonderful collections of blues and roots music and I find myself going back to their releases quite often. One violin blues not included is Peg Leg Howell's "New Jelly Roll Blues" featuring the terrific alley fiddle of Eddie Anthony. We close our show with sides by Son House, Tommy McClennan and Jazz Gillum. Gravel voiced singer Tommy McClennan wasn't exactly a refined bluesman, not even a particularly good guitar player, yet he had a very powerful and charismatic style. His "Cotton Patch Blues" opens with a striking image:

I left my baby in Mississippi, picking cotton down on her knees (2x)
She says babe you get to Chicago alright, please right me a letter if you please

Jazz Gillum had a more urban style and was also a fine lyricist as he proves on the humorous "Whiskey Head Buddies:"

Can't see why my whiskey head buddies
They all thinks I'm Santa Claus
'Cause I'm too young to grow white whiskers
And don't wear red suits at all

Among the later country blues is a selection by Piedmont stylist Alec Seward a close associate of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. "Blues All Around My Head #2" comes from Late One Saturday Evening which was recorded at a house party in 1966 and was never intended for commercial release. It's a jam session with Seward up front, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and washboard player Washboard Doc. Another San Diego Blues Jamgreat document from the era is Mississippi Delta Blues Jam in Memphis, Vol. 1 & 2 on Arhoolie. This a marvelous set of studio performances from artists appearing at the 1969 Memphis Blues Festival like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Othar Turner, Furry Lewis and others. Another interesting collection featured today is San Diego Blues Jam. The San Diego blues scene largely escaped notice until Lou Curtiss met Thomas Shaw, who helped him locate most of the other artists on this CD. We play a cut by Bonnie Jefferson, a fine rural blues woman originally from Arkansas who unfortunately cut only a handful of sides. Another fine performer from this period was Bill Williams. Blue Goose issued two albums by Williams in the early 70’s: Low And Lonesome and The Late Bill Williams Blues, Rags and Ballads (posthumous). Ragtime guitarist Williams was born in 1897 in Richmond, Virginia. He developed his ragtime style early but didn't work professionally but rather went to work on the railroad. While living in Bristol, Tennessee in 1922, Bill met the legendary Blind Blake and worked as Blake's regular second guitarist. Williams didn’t cut his first records until he was in his 70’s and passed in October of 1973.

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For the last few weeks I've been captivated by the recordings of George Mitchell who made some remarkable field recordings throughout the South over a twenty year period beginning in the early 1960's. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and has been reissuing the recordings through a variety of formats including CD, 7-inch record and digital download. While I admire Fat Possum for issuing these recordings, which will be of interest to a very narrow audience, their reissue of the material has been frustrating. They started the reissue program with single CD's of artists like Fred McDowell, J.W. Warren, Joe Callicott but eventually settled on putting the records out as series of 7" records (45 volumes in total) which seems a sure fire way of limiting their impact. Furthermore they have issued some more single artists CD's of folks like Cecil Barfield, Leon Pinson and Buddy Moss but these now seem impossible to locate. It seems a good chunk of the Mitchell collection (including many sides not on the box set) is available through eMusic and Amazon as digital downloads. I finally decided to pick up the The George Mitchell Collection box set which contains all 150 songs on each of the 45 7-inches spread out over six CD's plus a 24-track bonus CD by artists Fat Possum didn't know enough about to include in the original set. Also included is a well written booklet. I have to admit I've been a bit obsessed with these remarkable recordings and also picked up a couple of the individual CD's plus downloaded a number of songs that don't appear on the box set. Here, then, is the first of a two part trawl through these recordings as we look through the first three CD's.

Mitchell wasn't the only one roaming the south in the 1960's in search of blues; there was folklorists and researchers such as David Evans, Sam Charters, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Art Rosenbaum and others. Some were hunting for the famous names who made records in the 1920's and 1930's, others were seeking to fill in biographical blanks regarding some of the older musicians coveted by collectors and then there were those, like Mitchell, who were seeking to record whoever they could find. Mitchell did record some of the famous artists of the past like Buddy Moss, Furry Lewis, Will Shade, Sleepy Johns Estes and was the first to record artists who would achieve later fame such as R.L. Burnside, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Othar Turner and Precious Bryant. While the blues revival was picking up steam with newly discovered artists like Son House, Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt hitting the circuit, Mitchell's recordings were a sort of a parallel undercurrent to the more famous artists. What Mitchell recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960's was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. Mitchell had the passion and drive to seek out these folks, and unlike some folklorists didn't use the music to reinforce his own theories, he simply let the musicians speak for themselves and judging by the recordings they clearly responded to Mitchell's sincerity (being a southerner probably didn't hurt as well). Mitchell came along at the right time as he relates in the notes to the LP South Georgia Blues by William Robertson aka Cecil Barfield: "As late as 1969 a country bluesman who at least occasionally played could be located in most small towns of Georgia. In 1976, there are very few active blues musicians left in the state! In the short span of seven years, one of the world's most vital and influential forms of music as it was originally performed has all but died out in Georgia, and probably in the rest of the South as well. …Most bluesmen have either died or fallen into ill health accompanying old age, and the younger generation of rural blacks long ago turned their backs on the blues." It was also, he noted, the Church who claimed many bluesmen as well as the lack of financial incentive to play the blues that was the music's death knell.

 The most striking musician on the first disc is Cecil Barfield, and I agree with Mitchell's assessment that he was some kind of genius. Mitchell called him "probably the greatest previously unrecorded bluesman I have had the pleasure of recording during my 15 years of field research." Using the name William Robertson, in fear of endangering his welfare checks, he cut the LP South Georgia Blues for Southland in the mid-70's with several other tracks appearing on Flyright's Georgia Blues Today (reissued by Fat Possum with the same title and liner notes). I imagine Barfield is an acquired taste but to me he is simply mesmerizing; his music, with his droning, lightly distorted electric guitar coupled with his powerful mushed mouth, nasal singing, is hypnotic. Barfield has some originals but his genius is in the way he transforms well known songs by Frankie Lee Sims ("Lucy Mae Blues"), Lightnin' Hopkins ("Mojo Hand"), J.B. Lenoir ("Talk To Your Daughter") and others into something startlingly original. Only four songs by Barfield are on the box set although I was so taken with his music I downloaded all his songs on Amazon (George Mitchell Collection Vol. 2, Disc 3 & 4), 43 songs in all!

The sheer depth of singular talent is consistently surprising. Take John Lee Zielgler recorded in Georgia in 1978 and Lonzie Thomas recorded in Alabama in the early 1980's. Zielgler achieves a a gorgeous, fluid slide technique from his unorthodox style (he was a left-handed guitarist who played a right-handed guitar upside-down). His three numbers not only feature his slide work but also his beautiful high pitched voice backed by the wonderful spoon player Rufus Jones. In true field recording tradition you can hear little children playing in the background. More of his sides can be found on George Mitchell Collection Vol. 5. Thomas plays some fine finger picking reminiscent of John Hurt but not as refined, and possesses a deep, rich voice as he delivers old time numbers like "Rabbit On A Log", "Raise A Ruckus Tonight" and showcases some slide on the fine "My Three Woman."

Teddy Williams and William "Do Boy" Diamond were both recorded in Canton, Mississippi in 1967 on subsequent days. Diamond was a basic guitar player but possessed a great, relaxed voice. "Hard Time Blues" is a magnificent number, sharing the same haunting quality of some of Skip James' numbers. More of his sides can be found on George Mitchell Collection Vol. 5. It's suggested the older Williams may have taught Diamond, and he too is a powerful singer in a similar style. Mitchell's trip to Mississippi in 1967 was an extremely fruitful one and in addition to the above artists he recorded stunning sides by Houston Stackhouse (in a trio with Robert Nighthawk and Peck Curtis plus Carey "Ditty" Mason on some sides). It was a fortuitous recordings as Nighthawk died a few months later followed by Mason in 1969 and Curtis in 1970. These highly regarded sides have been issued before on Arhoolie and Testament. In addition there is some unissued material by Nighthawk and Stackhouse that should be of major interest to collectors. Also recorded during this trip were some powerhouse sides by Fred McDowell and harpist Johnny Woods and the wonderful Joe Callicott who's long been a favorite of mine. Only three songs apiece are included by each artist but each has full length CD's available on Fat Possum, both of which come highly recommended.

Other older, established players Mitchell recorded were Buddy Moss in 1963 and Dewey Corley in 1967. Mitchell found Moss through Peg Leg Howell (who he also recorded although his sides have not been reissued). Moss was part of the the great Atlanta blue scene of the 1930's working with Barbecue Bob, Curley Weaver, Blind Willie McTell as well as recording prolifically between 1933 and 1941. He was a forgotten man when Mitchell recorded him but the six sides included here find him in superb form. A moody and difficult character (a 1976 interview with Robert Springer was titled So I Said 'The Hell with It: A Difficult Interview with Eugene 'Buddy' Moss) his comeback never took off like it should, although Atlanta Blues Legend recorded in 1966 and issued on Biograph is quite good. Jug band veteran Dewey Corley is also in good form playing vigorous kazoo and one-stringed bass backed by Walter Miller on guitar on three loose, fun numbers.

Disc three features a trio of fine players from Georgia recorded in 1969: Bud White, Jim Bunkley and George Henry Bussey. Like many of the artists Mitchell found, none were professional musicians but all are quite good. White was a percussive guitar player with a high, rich voice, Bussey had a light, gently propulsive style and good voice while Mitchell describes Bunkley's style as a"frolicking" sound in contrast to the harder Mississippi style. Both Bussey and Bunkley were paired on the 1971 album George Henry Bussey and Jim Bunkley issued on Revival.

Mitchell also recorded a fair number of religious material including gospel singers and marvelous slide players, Leon Pinson and Green Paschal, both who play stirring gospel inflected blues. Pinson worked with the great singer/harmonica player Elder Roma Wilson early in his career and reunited with him when Wilson was rediscovered in the 80's, with the duo having a fair bit of success on the festival circuit. Pinson is a major artist with fine understated baritone and a ringing slide style. The stunner is "What God Can Do" sung in a beautiful crooning style, dipping occasionally into falsetto. It only lasts a minute-and-a-half but the depth of feeling resonates long after the song concludes. Paschal was a rough expressive singer and exciting, percussive slide player who comes across as a less intense version of Son House.

Cecil Barfield – Lucy Mae Blues (MP3)

John Lee Ziegler – If I Lose Let Me Lose (MP3)

Lonzie Thomas – My Three Woman (MP3)

William 'Do Boy' Diamond – Hard Time Blues (MP3)

Leon Pinson – What God Can Do (MP3)

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