Treated Me So Unkind, I Swear I Lost My Mind
Posted in 1930s,Piano Blues on 12.04.09

These are my favorite types of murder ballads – ones that start of as a typical blues sing, in this case “You Hear Me Knocking” or  a “Lost My Woman” style of blues song, but around the halfway mark it turns darker – Leroy Carr kills his woman for running around with another man. This song is simliar to the great Bessie Smith track “Send me to the ‘lectric chair,” though Carr doesn’t plead to be killed but pleads that his woman had it coming for running around with another man. Carr’s piano is a relentless fever, Scrapper Blackwell backs Carr as usual, but is mixed far to low in the mix which is unfortunate.

Leroy Carr – Court Room Blues (1934)

Nolan Welsh
Posted in 1920s,Piano Blues on 03.20.09

I’m late to the game about this but, over at the Encyclopedia Britannica blog the did a nice post compiling difference versions of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” for the song’s 70th anniversary. It’s a collection of youtube links rather than downloads which is sad, but I’m a sucker for these sorts of posts. Check it out here.

Nolan Welsh recorded less than a dozen sides for Paramount in the late 20s, all of them superb both in voice and talent on the ivories. Like all the stories on this blog, he didn’t get any record sales and is now these sides languish in relative obscurity. Out of the two songs I’m posting today, I’m obsessed with Larceny Woman Blues, the vocals on this track really remind more of more Delta blues vocal styles than most piano blues singers which I find a lot of fun. Dying Pickpocket Blues isn’t a St. James variant as I had hoped, but it’s still fantastic.

Nolan (Barrelhouse) Welsh – Dying Pickpocket Blues (1929)

Nolan (Barrelhouse) Welsh – Larceny Woman Blues (1929)

Gonna Beat It Back To Memphis
Posted in 1930s,Piano Blues on 10.07.08

Document’s recordings of Monkey Joe have always been the one disc I’ve always put back on the shelf/remove from my Amazon cart, maybe it’s the nick name that always rubbed me wrong – but it is a shame that I didn’t around to listening to him until last month.

Jesse Coleman recorded his first track in 1935 – but continued to play in blues clubs until at least the 1970s. Working as both a session player – he is most known for his aggressive piano playing style and his almost welping singing style. Both of these features are present on the first track a wonderfully original blues number, “Gonna Beat It Back To Memphis” an angry blues letter to world and the blues – he’s not taking the blues lying down on this one. The wonderful Walter Vincson plays guitar on this track – but he’s all but obscured by Coleman’s piano being way too high in the mix. Th e track is credited to Monkey Joe and his Music Grinders – a group consisting of Honey’s favorite Blind Joe Davis on piano and Willie Bee James on guitar -Coleman “only” sings on this side, I Was Laying ‘Em Down, but Davis’ style compliments the track a lot better and allows for the band to really carry the track which is always a pleasure to hear in pre-war era that was dominated by solo performances.

Jesse “Monkey Joe” Coleman – Gonna Beat It Back To Memphis (1935)
Monkey Joe and his Music Grinders – I Was Laying ‘Em Down (1939)

Freakish Man Blues
Posted in 1930s,Piano Blues on 09.01.08

I’ve updated the Stagolee page again, reducing the number of MIA tracks, thanks to Bert and others who have sent in files recently. The Final (!!) update to St. James should be up on the donors page tonight (or at least by 9/2) – apparently I like downloading, deleting and re-downloading those files over and over again. I know I’ve lost a few on the way because of that. If you donated tracks for these collections and haven’t heard from me by tomorrow night (9/2) send me an email ( for your password.

This song was requested awhile ago, but I’m just now getting around to putting it up. I wasn’t familiar with George Hannah before this request, I just had a few of his tracks scattered across a few discs. Hannnah isn’t the best singer, but he is a very unique songwriter – focusing on the other side of city life in the pre-war era. Boy in Boat is a great observation of city life, and sound somewhat like Tom Waits in parts. Freakish Man Blues goes more into details about his own personal leanings and is quite fun. Hannah is backed on both tracks by Meade Lux Lewis who is always a pleasure to hear.

George Hannah – The Boy In The Boat (1930)
George Hannah – Freakish Man Blues (1930)

Break From St. James/Boogie Woogie
Posted in 1930s,Honey,Piano Blues on 04.23.08

I hadn’t heard of Mosaic Select until the other I heard a story on Fresh Air about a new Boogie-Woogie Box set released released by them. Mosaic appears to be somewhat like an American grown Bear Family records specializing in box sets of jazz artists – especially of well known jazz artists little known recording periods. I’m not really an expert in jazz by any means – but these sets look fantastic – The Complete Charlie Parker on Benedetti? Yes Please.

Mosaic’s three disc set of boogie-woogie might be the first serious look at boogie woogie and blues piano in the pre-war era. The set is limited to 5,000 copies and priced at $49 which is high considering the set it self looks like a JSP Box, but without the shadiness and with excellent and extremely well documented notes.

I’m going to pick three tracks, one from each disc just to sample the set, the first track is a showy piece (even for a boogie woogie number) by Meade Lux Lewis – that is a perfect example of the style and just a great composition. The next is an star-studded number with Pete Johnson on piano and Hot Lips Page on trumpet and the great Joe Turner on vocals who complains about the tempo being too fast at the end of this unissued take. I think the tempo is is just right – and the last third of the side has some of the best call and response from a vocalist and his band that I’ve heard. The last track is from the great Cripple Clarence Lofton with a track that sounds like proto-southern soul, wonderful play between the drummer and Lofton, though it features more Lofton’s warbly voice than his fantastic piano skills (though he gets his lines in), I’m just in love with this track.

Buy It Here!!

Meade Lux Lewis – Bear Cat Crawl (1938)
Pete Johnson And His Boogie Woogie Boys – Jump For Joy (1939)
Cripple Clarence Lofton – Strut That Thing (1935)

Honey, After Hours
Posted in Piano Blues,Post-War on 09.28.07

A long time ago, This album was requested when I was posting a bunch of out of print things – and I’m finally making good on that promise. Trix Records was one of the best of the blues labels in post-war era though it never had the break through artists that would help propel Chess and others to major label status. This album Detroit After Hours is a collection of their musicians playing on the same piano and recored live at a house in Detroit’s “The Valley” a former black neighborhood that was the center of black entertainment after the war and was demolished over time in the 70s and 80s to make way for a freeway. The music is lively and really capture the spirit of a blues after hour party and all these songs are wonderful.

Pick a song or pick the full album.

Chuck Smith – The Train Is Coming (1973)

Detroit After Hours Vol. 1
(zip file)

We’ll Never Die
Posted in 1930s,Piano Blues on 09.18.07

I promise. It’s been a rough few months, thanks for sticking around.

I posted a track by Speckled Red way back in June of 05and it’s still up to download, which is remarkable I think. I don’t revisit too many of my old posts, there are far too many blues people to unearth to repeat the same dozen artists that CD compilations seems to be happy to produce. Speckled Red is also so fun and lively; this track will surely get you out of your seat – and it also provides a great counterpoint to the question I always get “Why are the blues so depressing?”

Speckled Red – You Got To Fix It (1938)

Kansas City Frank Melrose
Posted in 1920s,Piano Blues on 04.26.07

I’ve really been enjoying the Tiger Administration Page for WordPress, created by the guys over at Orderedlist. It’s so much cleaner and easier to navigate than the standard administration page – and it looks really nice too.

Kansas City Frank Melrose, also known as Broadway Rastus, recorded a couple of sides for Paramount in the late 20s. Funnily enough, the two sides Melrose was first known for were the alternative unissused takes of his songs, the song presented here today are the ones actually released in the Winter of 1929. Whoopee Stomp is a simple dance number with Melrose’s playful piano in a duet with Tommy Taylor’s drums – it’s quiet breezy and makes you want to stomp yr feet and pray that winter is finally over.

Kansas City Frank Melrose – Whoopee Stomp

Blues Mystery
Posted in Honey,Piano Blues on 03.26.07

A reader sent me this me this song the other day to get my help identifying the actual performer of the song. The compilation it comes from lists this song as being preformed by Cool Papa Smith who I don’t have any reference for, the compilation also calls Funny Paper Smith, Funny Pappa Smth, so it’s not the best researched CD. The song is If You Change Your Ways Woman, which I only know that Big Maceo sang, but it is possible that the song title is wrong also.

Anyone know this song?

“Cool Papa Smith” – If You Change Your Ways Woman (link fixed)
(m4a file)

What Makes Your Heart So Hard
Posted in 1930s,Honey,Piano Blues on 11.15.06

It’s been pretty overcast and gray here in Greensboro the last couple of days – and this side by Ben Abney captures that rainy day blues sound so perfectly. Abney recorded and lived in Charlotte, NC a town more known for its country music recordings than the blues musicians that recorded there, but this track is a solid if not special piano number from Abney. He’s sort of a klutzy stride piano player – but it has its charm – but the atmospshere of the song is what really sells it.

Ben Abney -What Makes Your Heart So Hard (1936)