As requested, Jack Owens was one of the last links to pre-war blues music this country had left when he passed in 1997. A bother-in-law for a time to Skip James, his music came from the same place, it was darkly meditative, though Owens wasn’t as skilled as James. This track features Bud Spires on harmonica and was recorded by Alan Lomax in the mid 60s.
Rob Hutton of Long Sought Home(which unfortunately has closed down, though he is preparing his next venture) has a great piece about Owens here.
I’ve noticed the wonderful influx of readers from metafilter and related sites today, I hope ya’ll enjoy the site – and add it to all of your favorite web 2.0 reading lists. RSS feeds are here.
Alan Lomax recorded Sampson Pittman in 1938 on one of his field recording trips to Detroit, Michigan, a trip that also produced Calvin Frazier. Pittman wasn’t from Michigan, but Arkansas which is referenced often in his songs, but also in his country and delta influenced guitar playing. Pittman’s voice in incredible, both in his power and clarity, which is a real rarity when listening to blues musicians of his age. His only recorded songs are from these Lomax recordings which were collected as “Devil Is Busy” which is far out of print now. They can found on the questionably titled ” Detroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City 1938-1954.”
Poor Boy Burke recorded four sides for Columbia in 1941, though they would sit around unreleased until the early 90s. Nothing is known about Burke or this session, Burke is the singer and quite a polished one at that suggesting that he has been singing for many years before this recording and he is backed by a very good, but unknown band. The whole side has a high degree of polish that isn’t really found a lot until after the war.
Issie Ringgold is a mostly unknown blues singer, her sister Muriel was a somewhat popular Broadway singer, but Issie didn’t see any of that success as she only recorded a couple of songs in early 1930. This song, He’s A Good Meat Cutter, is a solid, if uninspired blues side the major draw I have to the song is that I’m in total love with Issie’s voice, it has a bit of high class showtime in it, a little bit of vaudeville and it sounds just perfect. Issie Ringgold – He’s A Good Meat Cutter (1930)
St. Louis Red Mike (who I think should of just kept his name St. Louis Red) whose real name was John McBailey, is a pretty typical St. Louis blues singer, slow and sweet, but dangerous and violent at the same time. He is backed on this recording by the great Blind John Davis on piano and an unknown most likely Willie Bee James on guitar. The song itself is about Red courting the Devil’s sister, marrying her and taking over hell, is something you don’t hear much of in blues music, even from the Devil’s Son-In-Law himself, Peetie Wheatstraw. Maybe Peetie wasn’t the ambitious type.
I’ve posted about the Geraldine Fibbers before, but I haven’t posted any solo Carla Bozulich tracks yet, her song by song cover of Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger was one of the best albums of 2003 and her new album Evangelista is easily the best album I’ve heard this year. Bozulich mixes folk and outsider sensibilities with post-rock supplied by members of GY!BE and A Silver Mount Zion and it sounds so so good. This track, Steal Away, comes after the sensational (and far too long to be posted on here) title track so it’s more of a lullaby than the songs before and after it. Carla Bozulich – Steal Away (2006)
Seth Richards recorded a couple tracks under his real name in 1928, which would be his last recordings until he recorded as Skoodle Dum Doo and Sheffield in 1943. This track is where he got that moniker suggesting that it was a pretty solid seller. Richards attack this this track with great frenzy and frantic kazoo playing, but that frantic energy dies down and Richards settles into reciting Blind Willie McTell lyrics.
Kansas City Strummers were an unknown string band, with a great sense of rhythm and a wonderful vocalist who weaves and slurs his way through this song. I like this song a bunch because it really stands out from the the countless string bands that dotted the Midwest like railroad spikes who avoid numbers like this.
Bessie Brown and George Williams recorded a series of duets through out the twenties and early thirties to some success, though the never really broke out of the blues husband and wife formula. The Bessie Brown here is not the Bessie Brown who recorded as “The Original Bessie Brown” and she’s not really as talented or as interesting as that one, or even her husband George Williams. This song is not a duet, but a solo track with Williams singing and Fletcher Henderson on piano and it’s a great and much more serious and low-key and their duet work.
I get a bunch of emails from electronic/idm/techno bands trying to get me to promote their albums, which i never really understood because Honey and I’m guessing the readership of Honey is the opposite of that style of music. I never ever get emails or albums from roots or blues musicians, until the other day when I got some links from Television Hill promoting their new album Twilight that’s filled with good blues number including the excellent take on Jinx Blues.
Moral of the story. Send me (pre-war) blues music.