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Nehi (NEH05)

Luke Jordan, Beans Hambone, Peg Leg Abney, Scottie Nesbitt, Eddie Kelly’s Washboard Band, Virgil Childers, Curtis Henry, The Georgia Yellow Hammers, Andrew & Jim Baxter and more…

The fifth in Nehi’s series of superior pre-war blues compilations, this focuses upon the recordings that came out of Charlotte, North Carolina during its brief period during the late 1920s-early 1930s as one of the most visited US cities by musicians hoping to record their songs.

During this time Charlotte was rapidly expanding as a commercial regional hub and pivotal location on the rail network, providing access around the southern states and further afield. As important was the establishment of WBT radio in the city, attracting musicians hoping to appear on the radio shows and promote their talents. This, in turn, encouraged record labels to set up facilities in the city to record musicians as and when they came to perform.

The recording of African American blues performers however was a minor concern in Charlotte at this time as WBT radio was dominated by white music shows preferring to present early country and bluegrass acts. This superbly compiled and presented CD does however demonstrate that the best blues performers could secure a recording session in the city and, thankfully for us, managing to create a marvellous musical archive for us to now enjoy.

Every one of the 26 tracks presented here is an unalloyed gem, the enjoyment of which is enhanced by the mostly excellent sound quality of the recordings that the guys at Nehi have been able to select from. The informative notes on artists detailed in the accompanying booklet are also a major plus as many of the artists featured are little known, bordering on the obscure. Quite why this is so, and why more of them did not go on to more prominent recording careers, if not actually fame and fortune, is mystifying.

Luke Jordan is perhaps the best known of the featured artists and his four tracks are all fine examples of an adaptable and capable songster and bluesman. Eddie Kelly’s Washboard Band Poole County Blues is also reasonably well known among jug band nuts but check out their other number included here, the riotous assembly that is Goin’ Back To Alabama. And if you don’t already have Jack Gowdlock’s only two recorded sides (as far as I know), Rollin’ Dough Blues and Poor Jane, they are both here and are stunning examples of Memphis blues - as good as anything that Furry Lewis, Jim Jackson and Frank Stokes were recording at the same time.  Peg Leg Abney’s Ev’rything I Got Belongs To You is another favourite, a Fats Waller-type enlivener guaranteed to raise a smile. 

In amongst the blues and jug bands tracks here, there are also excellent performances that defy classification. The Cedar Creek Sheik’s Jimmy Shut His Store Doors and Beans Hambone’s Tippin’ Out are both an absolute delight but don’t ask me to categorise what they are. 

Another winner then and we are already keenly awaiting the next volume in Nehi’s enjoyable and rewarding series.

Review Date: August 2014

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