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RHYTHM N BLUESIN' BY THE BAYOU - ROMPIN' & STOMPIN'

Ace (CDCHD1388)

Tabby Thomas, Jay Nelson, Wonder Boy Travis, Lester Robertson, King Karl, TV Slim, Lonesome Sundown, Johnny Sonnier, Otis Smith, Billy Tate, Leroy Washington, Little Victor. Charles Sheffield, Katie Webster, Carol Fran, Ivory Jackson and more...

This is the sixth in the tremendous ‘By The Bayou' series from Ace Records, and the second that is prefixed as a Rhythm & Bluesin' title. This means that it is taking another dip into ultra-rare late 1950s and early 1960s R&B and rockin' blues from the vaults of independent Louisiana record labels. These labels were owned by the likes of JD Miller, Eddie Shuler, Sam Montel, Floyd Soileau and Carl Graffagnino and between them recorded some of the best music to have come out of the civilised world as we know it.

The excitement that Ace and their dedicated research team experience when they unearth new titles like these is matched only by us fans when we hear them for the first time. The only real mystery is how and why so much musical gold has been left ignored for so long. Of the 28 rarities presented here, it is staggering that 19 are said to be released for the first time in any format.

Proceedings get off to a rollicking start with Teenagers by Tabby Thomas, featuring the first of many killer guitar riffs offered up across this collection.  Another appears immediately after on Jay Nelson's Silly Filly Oh Baby, a nonsensical song but somehow a captivating experience. Alongside great, speaker-bursting guitar riffs and solos, there are also lots of honking saxes and pounding pianos on offer here, as featured so wonderfully on the pulsating She Got Eyes Like A Cat by Wonder Boy Travis and again on Lester Robertson's Schooldays, Schooldays.

Of the artists I am most familiar with, Lonesome Sundown turns in a couple of solid performances on California Blues and the ultra-swamp blues of What You Wanna Do It For. Leroy Washington's garbled guitar and vocal histrionics on You Can't Trust Nobody still sound great to these ears and while Boogie Children by Charles Sheffield is said to be a previously unreleased number it certainly does sound more than a little familiar. Either way, it is still one of the many highlights here that I keep returning to.

On compilations like this of course, it is the new finds that make the biggest impact on your enjoyment. In this respect the alternate takes included of two Classie Ballou tracks impress highly, particularly the version Lucille which, stripped of Little Richard's larger-than-life exuberance allows the funkiness of the song to breathe. Katie Webster and Ashton Conroy's Baby, Baby also provides an enjoyable piece of bluesy jive-talking and Wonder Boy Travis, a former member of Clifton Chenier's band, turns in a jolly She Went Thataway, featuring a splendid accordion turn that gives a real flavour of the Louisiana bayou. Conversely, Tomorrow by Carol Fran and James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford & His Cane-Cutters rather wonderful Round And Round are just  perfect pop records that only peripherally provide for a local flavour to the music. Neither of course, are any the worse for that.

And, as always with Ace, the accompanying booklet to the CD adds bountifully to the enjoyment of the music, featuring little pen portraits to each of the artists featured and information as far as is possible on the tracks on offer.

I've said it before in reviews of previous releases in this ‘By The Bayou' series and I'll say it again here, this may just be the finest series of releases that Ace has ever undertaken. And the good news is that there are more to come. The notes to this CD make a number of references to plans for future volumes and Swamp Pop By The Bayou (CDCHD1397) is already pencilled-in for an end of March release. Maybe 2014 is going to be a bumper year for great music after all!

Review Date: Febraury 2014

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