This outstanding collection of prewar blues sides came with Blues Images' 2006 calendar. Their 2010 edition is available now and makes a great Christmas present (hint, hint). Get it now for your favorite blues fan.
If you're a serious 1920s and 1930s blues collector, you probably have most, if not all, of the songs featured on this compilation. However, even if that is the case, Blues Classics Vol. 3 is worth having for the superior fidelity in which these performances are presented. As much as I love the Document label for their comprehensiveness, the sound quality on their albums often leaves a bit to be desired, especially compared to what appears on Yazoo releases. Fortunately, Blues Images owner John Tefteller has the good sense to have these recordings remastered by Richard Nevins, who has done the same work for Yazoo since the death of Nick Pearls. So if you already have some of these sides on Document CDs, they definitely sound better here.
Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman" and "Cypress Grove Blues" are about as eerie as the blues gets. If you've never before heard his unearthly falsetto and complex guitar work, these are a good introduction. "Love My Stuff" is later-period Charlie Patton and one of many different variations on the "Maggie Campbell" theme that he recorded, but even a mediocre performance by the true King of the Delta Blues is better than most other bluesmen at their finest. Gruff-voiced Patton disciple Willie Brown pitches in with "M & O Blues" (the "M" and "O" being an abbreviation for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad), a considerably more subdued but no less compelling performance than his only other extant side, "Future Blues." Next up is the clever critique of preachers, "He Calls that Religion," by The Mississippi Sheiks, followed by one of Blind Blake's last records, "Champagne Charlie is My Name" and Ida Cox's parlor blues, "Lost Man." King Solomon Hill's incredibly weird "The Gone Dead Train" continues to astound with the guitarist's inimitable lap-style slide work and his keening vocals. He sounded like no one else and was one of the few prewar blues artists whose style was completely sui generis. "War Time Blues" is one of Blind Lemon's more worthwhile numbers, and if you're partial to classic female blues singers, I guess Ma Rainey's "Black Bottom" is about as good as it gets. "Skoodle Um Skoo" is a nice bit of hokum from Papa Charlie Jackson, while Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves usher in rock 'n' roll about 20 years ahead of schedule with "Guitar Boogie," which also features Baby Jay James on cornet and pianist Will Ezell. (This track sounds considerably better than its counterpart on the Document Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order CD.) Leroy Carr's "Christmas in Jail Blues" is appropriate for the upcoming holiday, although it may not get you in the right spirit. "Tallahatchie River Blues" by Mattie Delaney offers a female perspective of the 1927 flood in the Mississippi Delta, which was also the subject of Charlie Patton's two-part "High Water Everywhere." "How You Want Your Rollin' Done" showcases the nimble flat-picking guitar style of songster Louis Lasky, who was an early Big Bill Broonzy influence. (As with "Guitar Boogie," this one is featured in its best ever sound quality.) "Married Woman Blues" is an appealing member of the "Red River Blues" family by underrated guitarist George Torey, who unfortunately was not recorded as extensively as he should have been.
Get Vol. 2 here.
1. Devil Got My Woman - Skip James
2. Love My Stuff - Charlie Patton
3. M & O Blues - Willie Brown
4. He Call that Religion - Mississippi Sheiks
5. Champagne Charlie Is My Name - Blind Blake
6. Lost Man Blues - Ida Cox
7. The Gone Dead Train - King Solomon Hill
8. War Time Blues - Blind Lemon Jefferson
9. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - Ma Rainey
10. Skoodle Um Skoo - Papa Charlie Jackson
11. Guitar Boogie - Blind Roosevelt Graves & Brother
12. Christmas in Jail - Leroy Carr
13. Tallahatchie River Blues - Mattie Delaney
14. How You Want Your Rollin' Done - Louis Lasky
15. Married Woman Blues - George Torey
16. Cypress Grove Blues - Skip James