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VARIOUS ARTISTS

DOWN HOME BLUES - DETROIT (3CD)

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Wienerworld (WNRCD5095)

Martee Bradley, John Brim, Eddie Burns, Earl Chatman, Detroit Count, Detroit Slim, Calvin Frazier, LC Green, Harvey Hill Jr, John Lee Hooker, Bobo Jenkins, Bob Kelly, Sam Kelly, Eddie Kirkland, Little Sonny, Clarence Posey, Big Jack Reynolds, Doctor Ross, Henry Smith, Little Daddy Walton and Baby Boy Warren

While Detroit was a major magnet in the northern states of America for southern blacks looking to improve their economic and social standing in the immediate post wars years, the city never acquired its own distinctive style of blues that Chicago so clearly did. Possible reasons for this are succinctly explored in the impressive 48 page booklet (written by revered blues historian and writer, Mike Rowe) that comes with this set but they needn’t detain us here. Suffice to say that ‘Detroit blues’ collections tend simply to include tracks recorded locally (either by local musicians or visiting artists) rather than evoke any singular musical style.

This of course does not imply that ‘Detroit blues’ collections are any less valid, impressive or enjoyable than other such sets. Ultimately it is all about the quality of the music and the musicians, and this set instantly raises the bar on what constitutes the definitive guide to Detroit’s contribution to blues history.

Presenting 82 tracks featuring 21 different artists, the sheer quality and variety on offer here is staggeringly high. Casting such a giant shadow over Detroit blues, John Lee Hooker is obviously represented and his stirring seven tracks are typical, though not overly familiar, examples of the Boogie Man’s genius. Friends and occasional collaborators of Hooker are also very much in evidence, with Eddie Burns contributing ten gloriously swinging harp blowing tracks and Eddie Kirkland offering up five early tracks full of his delightfully dramatic vocals and thrilling guitar fills.

The bluesman allocated most tracks, with a relatively hefty twelve, is the fabulous Baby Face Warren whose mix of urban and country blues is a consistent delight. And don’t let pass the opportunity to hear the always-excellent Doctor Ross on four tracks recorded in nearby Flint while working in Detroit for General Motors.

Other favourites include Little Sonny’s jaunty little rocker, Love Shock, Martee Bradley’s solo performance of Now I’ll Have To Sing The Blues and Harvey Hill Jr’s monstrously good version of She Fool Me.

But, really, everything about this set is right - the music is uniformly excellent (inclusive of some real rarities to keep collector’s purring), the booklet is an informative and well written treat and the presentation is exemplary. You really can’t go wrong with this!

Review Date: August 2016

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