ROBERT NIGHTHAWK, HOUSTON STACKHOUSE & J.B. HUTTO
MASTERS OF MODERN BLUES (2CD)
Floating World (FLOATD6155)
The recent re-issue programme from Floating World has already re-introduced us to lots of artists and albums that were otherwise looking lost to the wilderness but they do seem to have surpassed themselves here.
This impressive 2CD set includes classic mid-60s Chicago blues albums cut for Pete Welding's Testament Records by major, if under-estimated, blues guitarists and singers.
The first CD is split between Robert Nighthawk and Houston Stackhouse, close friends for years (possibly cousins) who honed their musical talents in Mississippi before moving north to Chicago. Stackhouse retained the country blues stylings learnt in and around Tommy Johnson in the late 1920s and early 1930s; evidenced here on his eight sides recorded in 1964 on which he remained largely faithful to how they had been played all those years ago. All beautifully sung and played but definitely indicative of an earlier time and place.
Robert Nighthawk's style had however changed considerably since moving to Chicago and he became a leading figure in the evolution of electric slide guitar, not only in relation to his own recordings but also as a friend and mentor to Muddy Waters and Elmore James. His ten tracks here are masterpieces of control, taste and tone. As well as a great guitarist he was also an under-rated singer and performer, as these sides testify. Unfortunately he never did record as much as his talents suggest he should of and died just a few years later. In the absence of his sensational Live On Maxwell Street 1964 album (now hard to find), this is probably the best example of his work available and well worth getting.
J.B. Hutto was also a superb guitarist and performer, who with Hound Dog Taylor became the natural heirs to the Elmore James-school of blues slide guitar in the sixties. This album recorded in 1966 has 12 pile-driving numbers with his band The Hawks - including on this session Walter Horton on harmonica.
So what we have here are two albums of great Chicago slide guitar blues and real musical worth, recorded for a label of historical significance and now available at about half the price you would pay for them on the original Testament label (if you can find them). Surely enough to convince you to get this?
(one qualifier - the copy we have has been wrongly printed; the CD labelled JB Hutto is the Robert Nighthawk CD, and visa versa)
Review Date: October 2012