Original Blues - Compilation
Compilations are very dodgy things. There's something odd about those people who have nothing but compilations in their collection as though they are afraid to commit themselves to the responsibility and commitment of owning, and listening to, a whole album by just one artist. If you find yourself going out with someone who has only compilations, don't expect wedding bells any time soon, and greet 'I was working late' excuses with much suspicion.
Having said that, there is a place for the odd compilation in any collection, as long as you don't make a habit of it, and there's nothing better than the low-priced compilation, which is what we have here. To be fair, this is quite a nice collection of songs for those whose collection is underserved by a blues selection for those coming cold, lonely winter nights. Even if you live in a house of fifty people, we all have those nights when the world seems a little extra cold, the wind just a little more biting, your woman/man has left you and you realise you've been shortchanged by the all-night garage when you ventured out for that midnight Mars bar. It's for these sort of nights, that the blues was invented and there's a lot of miserable pleasure to be had here.
Highlight include Blind Lemon Jefferson's Black Snake Moan, Big Bill Broonzy's original version of Baby Please Don't Go (Down To New Orleans) and Lead Belly’s Big Fat Woman with it's honky tonk piano and muddy production. Big Joe Williams' Razor Sharp Blues is a study in plinky-plunky slide guitar and is quite wonderful. Production is variable throughout, as these recordings come from a variety of sources, and, to be quite honest, it's something of a refreshing change to listen to something that sounds like it was recorded in a smoky bar on a tape recorder covered in cusions. Sonny Terry's Rock Me Mama just wouldn't sound as sexy as it does here, if it was recorded with digital clarity. The muddiness adds something indefinable to the music, and, if you close your eyes, you can see the 78rpm record spin; all it needs is a few crackles and it would sound just perfect.
If there is one criticism to be leveled here, its the one that can be pointed at nearly all compilations. Lifting songs out of context and shoving them all together on one recording doesn't often work and here is no exception. However, the very nature of these songs means they stand alone quite well, anyway, and as a taster of the artists concerned it work very well, but you will probably feel the desire to seek out more recordings by some of these after a few listens. And that's no bad thing, really, is it? Even if you don't, this compilation will probably come out for regular spins every so often and much welcomed it will be.