PAPA CHARLIE JACKSON
WHY DO YOU MOAN WHEN YOU CAN SHAKE THAT THING? (4CD)
Papa’s Lawdy Lawdy Blues, Airy Man Blues, Salty Dog Blues, The Cat’s Got The Measles, I’m Alabama Bound, Butter And Egg Man Blues, Jungle Man Blues, Mumsy Mumsy Blues, Tailor Made Lover and more (including 13 sides by Bo Weavil Jackson)
For a relatively well-known name as a pre-eminent early blues musician, the recordings of Papa Charlie Jackson have received limited attention in the CD era from archivists and compilers of re-issue labels. A few reasonably difficult to locate Document CDs aside, until now you would be hard pressed to locate any of his recorded legacy other than a track here or there on various artist compilations.
Difficult to know for sure but it is likely that the poor quality of Paramount’s original recording of sessions in the 1920s and early 1930s have, to date, limited the interest in, and capacity for, compilers to re-present these recordings favourably. Also, as a musician that learnt his craft in travelling shows and vaudeville revues before blues became a recognised musical form, his recordings incorporate a diverse array of styles that do not comfortably fit into any accepted orthodoxy of what is considered to be blues. His preferred use of a customised banjo as musical support only re-inforces the potential to consider his music as something other than blues.
Thankfully, JSP has once again come to our rescue. This excellent 4CD set presents 90 endlessly enjoyable examples of his work. How much of it is blues, as opposed to vaudeville or novelty songs or even hot jazz is a moot and self-defeating point. The bottom line is this is music of great vigour and depth, that rewards regular and repeat listening.
And, the JSP team has addressed the sound quality issues that have marred previous CD and vinyl issues by locating, courtesy of archivists Chris King and Roger Misiewicz, the cleanest copies of the many rarities included herein.
So, jump right in and marvel at Papa Charlie’s sublime, varied and intricate array of singing and playing on these numbers. Most feature just Jackson and his immaculate banjo but there are also examples of his muscular musical support on splendid classic blues recordings of Ida Cox, Ma Rainey and Hattie McDaniels. One of his best known solo numbers, Salty Dog, also gets an alternative reading with his singing lead in front of Freddie Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals, a hot jazz combo from Chicago in 1926. Plus there are a couple of short but enjoyable musical interludes playing alongside, and chatting to, Blind Blake in 1929.
And if the extensive collection of Papa Charlie Jackson recordings presented here is not quite enough for you, the set is nicely rounded of with 13 sublime blues and gospel sides of Bo Weavil Jackson from 1926. A rather splendid singer and guitarist, the numbers included here featuring his penetrating slide are particularly effective.
Another major set from JSP, and among the most enjoyable in their impressive series of box sets.
Review Date: April 2015