RUB A LITTLE BOOGIE - NEW YORK BLUES 1945-1956 (4CD set)
Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Boy & Lonnie Johnson, Big Chief Ellis, Alonzo Scales, Leroy Dallas, Allen Bunn (Tarheel Slim), Bob Gaddy, Bobby Harris, Duke Bayou (Alec Seward), Square Walton, Cousin Leroy, Carolina Slim.
Here's a great bunch of blues for you to sink your teeth into starting with stacks of stuff that Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee recorded during the 40s and 50s when they were making small combo sides with the help of Jack Dupree, Stick McGhee, Mickey Baker and Bob Gaddy as well as appearing on sessions for many of the bluesmen featured on this set.
Big Chief Ellis is included too with Dices Dices, his big piano blues hit from 1945, and again as sideman on Allen Bunn's (or Tarheel Slim as he became known) two songs My Kinda Woman (with vocal group The Wheels) and Too Much Competition which are uptown blues with the rockin' feel that would be used to great effect on his later hits with Little Ann. Bob Gaddy's sides are pretty impressive too with great piano work on rocking good songs with catchy punch-lines that betray the fact that he was obviously on the lookout for a big hit. His version of Bill Carlisle's No Help Wanted and the slow blues Operator are particularly appealing.
Carolina Slim was a bit of an odd-ball in that although he was from North Carolina and steeped in country blues, he chose to emulate the music of Lightnin' Hopkins. During a two year career, recording as Carolina Slim, Country Paul or Lazy Slim Jim, he made several confident country blues sides based on Blind Boy Fuller tunes (Rag Mama Rag and Mama's Boogie) but for the most part he preferred to play Hopkin's style licks and runs with songs like Jivin' Woman, Pleadin' Blues and Black Chariot Blues being the most successful. Duke Bayou is a pseudonym for Alec Seward who, in later life, teamed up with Louis Hayes as Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly. His four tracks here feature Jack Dupree and Brownie McGhee with a drummer and a washboard player who really went to town on the rollicking Rub A Little Boogie and there's a great slow version of That's All Right With Me that's notable for Dupree's superb piano playing.
Square Walton's over-amplified guitar sounds just right in this raw and raunchy outfit that has Sonny Terry, Mickey Baker and Wilbert Ellis rocking out in what compiler Neil Slaven perfectly describes as "a pleasantly disjointed atmosphere". Actually his Bad Hangover and Pepper Head Woman would be my favourite tracks on the set if it wasn't for what comes next...
In 1955 and 1957, Cousin Leroy recorded eight tough tracks that had a little something extra that drove blues fans crazy when they came out on unauthorized records in the 60s. I'm Lonesome is a rattling slice of rockabilly with great vocals and clanging guitars from Leroy and Larry Dale - and is that really Sonny Terry ripping out those energetic scathing runs? Waiting At The Station is a hard rocker laced with echoing vocals, a big fat beat and some real nasty guitar. Neil Slaven notes: "it's possible to equate these efforts with what Jay Miller was beginning to do in Louisiana with the likes of Lightnin' Slim and Lazy Lester". Then there's Cousin Leroy's version of Crossroads which has a slow, sinuous arrangement with snaky guitar licks and a change of beat on the tremolo soaked guitar solo which simply soars while Up The River has a lurching Ray Charles feel. Leroy blasts out the lyrics while Sonny Terry slams in and out of the melody on his harmonica and, for me, Larry Dale's guitar solo is the best in the entire box set!
Subtitled "Urban blues from the famous and the forgotten", this 113 track bundle of energy makes you realise just how important and vital the New York music business was to the blues world. Another five star box set from the boys at JSP.
Ask for JSP77108
4CDs for only £14.50 plus p&p here at Red Lick
Review Date: August 2010