GEORGIA TOM DORSEY & BIG BILL BROONZY
THE FAMOUS HOKUM BOYS (2CD)
Dark Hour Blues, Six Shooter Blues, Second-Hand Woman Blues, Somebody’s Been Using That Thing, Black Cat Rag, Nancy Jane, Bow Leg Baby, That Stuff I Got, Terrible Operation Blues, Hip Shakin’ Strut, Hokum Stomp and many more…
These 52 highly entertaining but little-heard sides were all recorded over a few brief sessions in New York in April and September 1930 and feature two of the most popular blues musicians of the period displaying their collective talents on a series of hokum blues numbers.
The popularity of hokum blues largely pre-dated the rise of recorded blues music in the 1920s and had its roots in the minstrel and medicine shows involving comedy, farce and invariably a degree of sexual innuendo. As many early bluesmen had a background in this environment it is not surprising that many of their early recordings featured a goodly number of hokum blues.
Pianist and singer Georgia Tom in particular was one of the early stars of recorded hokum blues in the late 1920s with his numerous recordings with Tampa Red, most significantly the classic It's Tight Like That.Upon splitting with Tampa Red, Georgia Tom then teamed up with ace blues guitarist and singer, Big Bill Broonzy, to form The Famous Hokum Boys and record these sides with just the occasional input from Scrapper Blackwell on guitar and Mozelle Alderson on vocals.
Despite the relatively low regard that hokum blues generated at the time, in hindsight the quality threshold on these numbers is consistently very high. The standard of singing and playing is as uniformly excellent as you would expect from such accomplished and revered bluesmen of the period and the songs are invariably witty and always engaging. This is particularly notable on the sides included here that benefit from the verbal sparring between Georgia Tom and Mozelle Alderson (sometimes listed here under the alternative names of Hannah May and Kansas City Kitty, for reasons that are not fully known).
Even where the focus is not on the lyrical humour and off-colour banter, there is so much to enjoy just as a fan of recorded blues music of the period.
Having cut these sides, and seemingly had much fun in so doing, it does seem strange that Georgia Tom and Big Bill did not go on to record together more. As we know, Big Bill went on to become one of the world’s most successful and prominent bluesmen until his passing in 1958, while Georgia Tom would soon be known as Thomas A Dorsey, Baptist minister and immensely influential gospel singer. But, as Neil Slaven concludes in his fine notes to this set, if the hokum era had to come to an end, it is fitting that it ended with these enjoyable good time numbers.
Another fine set from JSP whose back catalogue just goes from strength to strength.
Review Date: June 2015