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Old Hat (OHCD1008)

FRANKIE HALF PINT JACKSON-Down At Jaspers Bar-B-Que, Gimme A Pig's Foot, BIG BOY TEDDY EDWARDS-Who Did You Give My Barbecue To? Part 1 and Part 2, MEMPHIS MINNIE-Pig Meat On the Line, TWO CHARLIES-Pork Chop Blues, MISSISSIPPI JOOK BAND-Barbecue Bust, BLIND BOY FULLER-I Crave My Pig Meat, BARBECUE BOB- Barbecue Blues, CHARLIE CAMPBELL AND HIS RED PEPPERS-Pepper Sauce Mama, GEORGIA WHITE-Pigmeat Blues, TINY PARHAM-Pig's Feet And Slaw, THE FOUR SOUTHERN SINGERS-Ham Bone Am Sweet, HUNTER AND JENKINS-Meat Cuttin' Blues, BROWNIE McGHEE-Barbecue Any Old Time, JOLLY TWO-Come On Down, BESSIE JACKSON-Barebecue Bess, BOGUS BEN COVINGTON-I Heard The Voice Of A Pork Chop, BO CARTER-Pig Meat Is What I Crave, SAVANNAH CHURCHILL-Fat Meat Is Good Meat, RICHARD M JONES JAZZ WIZARDS-Smoked Meat Blues, VANCE DIXON AND HIS PENCILS-Meat Man Pete, HANK JONES AND HIS GINGER-Barbecue Blues, TEMPO KING AND HIS KINGS OF TEMPO-Alabama Barbecue.

If you think that barbeque is just burnt food cooked in the open air then you'll learn a lot from this new anthology of pre-war music from one of my favourite labels, Old Hat. Starting with the word itself, ‘barbecue' has always been a verb to me but in the southern states of America it's a noun - the actual meat. So, in the hills of Kentucky it's mutton, deep down in Texas, beef brisket and almost everywhere else, pork.

In those simpler days, barbeque and the lively time that went with it, provided a deep vein of material for blues and jazz musicians who celebrated it with songs that sizzle with pork chops, ham bones, pig's feet or any chunk of flesh you could name. Historian Tom Hanchett describes the tunes as ‘boasting' songs - "similar in a way to modern hip hop music. Barbecue was part of an urban lifestyle, not unlike the flashy luxury goods flaunted by today's rappers. On these old records, barbecue stands in for all that is good: money in your pocket, someone eager for your sexual charms and lots of fine food whenever you want it".

Some musicians merely describe the scene. Frankie Jaxon, for instance, runs through the entire menu in his enthusiastic description of his favourite eating house, Chicago's Jaspers Bar-B-Que while the Jolly Two celebrate barbecue as the hottest of wild social occasions with dancing and music, as they invite you to Come On Down. Others liken barbecue to sex. Georgia White wasn't thinking about food when she lasciviously purred her way through Pigmeat Blues which features some tremendous blues guitar from Les Paul on his very first recording session in 1936. Bo Carter serves up a side order of double entendres on his horny Pig Meat Is What I Crave and Lucille Bogan (masquerading as Bessie Jackson) is surely selling more than pork products on the sexy Barbecue Bess which has the added attraction of brilliant piano playing by Walter Roland and some acidic guitar licks from Josh White. On the other hand, on Pork Chop Blues, the Two Charlies swear that all your ills can be cured by a heaped helping of fried potatoes and pork chops.

More highlights? The Mississippi Jook Band stomping out on the rousing Barbecue Bust which is a storming instrumental guaranteed to get any barbecue buzzing, Blind Boy Fuller's finger-bustin' ragtime guitar item I Crave My Meat and the eccentric Pepper Sauce Mama by Charlie Campbell's Red Peppers - another slab of the hot string band music typically played out on country barbecues in the thirties.

The whole CD is stuffed with choice items but a couple just stand out for me. I love the loose rural structure of Barbecue Blues by Hank Jones and His Ginger. The group consists of Lonnie Johnson playing guitar and violin alongside his brother Steady Roll Johnson on keyboards and possibly Jelly Roll Anderson on slide guitar. (The weird tuning reflects that on Anderson's classic Good Time Blues) Then there are both parts of Who Did You Give My Barbecue To by Big Boy Teddy Edwards whose band has an all-star line-up that includes Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Charlie Jackson on banjo. The performances are strong with a rock steady rhythmic drive powered along by Jackson's banjo and the unusual addition of Edwards' rolling chords on the Colombian tiple - a ten stringed instrument of the guitar family that you rarely hear on blues music from any era.

Old Hat CDs are always beautifully compiled and expertly presented and this 24 track anthology is well up to their exacting standards. The excellent sleeve notes and stunning design add to the whole concept and I am especially thrilled by the cover art which places the 1927 Barbecue Bob photo taken at Tilden's Barbecue in Atlanta inside a 1930s shot of a cook-out in Lexington, North Carolina. It's these extra touches that make Old Hat CDs so compelling to us collectors. ‘Barbecue Any Old Time' is finger lickin' good!


Review Date: November 2012

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