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 1980'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 the 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 great 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.