MURDER - SONGS FROM THE DARK SIDE OF THE SOUL
Jimmie Rodgers, Ethel Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lord Executor, Billy Boy Arnold, Wilmouth Houdini & His Humming Birds, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith & Her Blue Boys, Wade Mainer & Zeke Morris, Blind Boy Fuller, Aunt Idy Harper & The Coon Creek Girls, Honeyboy, Little Walter & His Jukes, Louis Armstrong with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five, Champion Jack Dupree, Stanley Brothers, Archibald, Henry Thomas, Grayson & Whitter, Billie Holiday, Lonnie Johnson, Delmore Brothers.
CDs of dark doings in the mountains and domestic violence in the small towns and trailer parks of America seem to be popping up quite a bit these days and I'll be honest, I find them fascinating. Keep ‘em coming I say and let's have more of the mystery that surrounds songs like the Stanley Brothers 1950s bluegrass version of Pretty Polly. Tell me. How does a purty little thing like Polly get involved with an obvious psychopath like little Willie and why did she take to the hills with him? Along the way she begins to feel nervous and rightly so when he introduces her to the grave he dug for her last night! That poor child was as dumb as the fool who's two timing Little Walter and doesn't understand that when he says Boom Boom Out Go The Lights, he means her lights!
This set roams around the mountains, main streets, bars, back rooms and motels of America with songs like jealous old Sonny Boy Williamson's murderous rantings on Your Funeral And My Trial, Bessie Smith's full-on confession in Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair and New Orleans piano player Archibald wringing out the full facts on that bad man Staggerlee. Out in California Frank ‘Honeyboy' Patt unlocks the door and steps into hell. His girl is lying hysterical amongst torn sheets and pillowcases that are spread all over the bedroom floor. There's Bloodstains On The Wall and no explanation of what's gone on so he makes his damage report and assesses the laundry bill with the help of Gus Jenkins on piano and Jimmy Liggins on guitar.
Grayson & Whitter's jaunty guitar and fiddle melody fails to detract from the sheer callousness of the confession by the man who murdered poor Rose Conley and is yet another matter-of-fact mountain murder ballad that says life is cheap and there's jest nothin' anyone can do about it.
The songs here were recorded between 1927 and 1958 and come from all across the southern states with the exception of two from the Caribbean and I've just noticed something interesting. While the black folks spend most of the time threatening bloody murder, the white mountain folk actually do it and then gleefully confess but the folks in Trinidad report the tragedy and then organise a dance!
Review Date: March 2010