Monday, July 27, 2009

Any Techies Out There?

I know I've been somewhat neglectful of posting regularly on this here blog, but it's been a busy summer for me. After being unemployed most of the first five months of this year, I'm now in the position of having three part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. Yeah, it sucks, but what can I do? Well, at least I've got a bit of a cash flow to enable me to buy more records and CDs to post on Record Fiend. Obviously, the frequency of my posts will continue to be sporadic, but at least I will continue to have new items to upload for your listening pleasure.

One thing I have been working on over the last couple of months are some articles based on interviews I conducted with the world's greatest living oud player John Berberian after I saw him in concert in Worcester, Massachusetts back in April. One article will appear in one of my all-time favorite publications, Ugly Things, early next year, issue number 30 to be exact. I'm trying to get the other, shorter piece published in another periodical. While the proposal was approved, I'm awaiting word on whether or not the final product will be published. Both will be written under a nom de plume, of course.

Oh, yeah... the title of this post. I noticed earlier this month that the "Search Blog" function no longer seems to work here. The problem does not seem to be an isolated incident based on what I've been reading on Google forums and such. I contacted the proper authorities about it. Hopefully, Google/Blogger will rectify the situation, but I still wouldn't mind receiving suggestions on how to deal with this malfunction from other sources. Has this problem affected anyone else's blog out there? Can any more technically astute, computer-friendly types who might follow Record Fiend impart any sage advice upon me how to fix this problem?

Finally, props to the north star grassman and Ascending Currents for posting during my absence.

Red River Blues 1934-1943 (Travelin' Man, 1991)

Red River Blues 1934-1943 compiles some absolutely fantastic blues and proto-blues recordings from the southeastern states made for the Archive of Folksong at the Library of Congress. While some of the musicians who appear on this CD easily fit into the East Coast Piedmont blues idiom, this collection also contains performances by Georgia string bands as well as examples of the little-documented prewar Florida blues traditions. As with many other Library of Congress recordings from the 1930s and 1940s, the sound quality is not always the greatest, but the artistic and historical value of the performances easily outweigh any sonic imperfections they may have.


The mysterious Blind Joe leads things off and displays a guitar style that bears a striking similarity to that of Blind Blake. "When I Lie Down" and "In Trouble" were both recorded during his incarceration in a North Carolina penitentiary and provide further evidence that the prisons of the South were a fertile source of American roots music. Reese Crenshaw's "Trouble" is another prison recording (this time from the State Prison Farm in Midgeville, Georgia) with some rather deft guitar picking and pleasantly engaging vocals. The state of Georgia is also represented by Robert Davis, who contributes to this collection with the superb dance instrumental, "Poor Joe Breakdown." "Not Satisfied" and "Red River Blues" are two fine guitar duets recorded at the State Penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia by Jimmie Owens and Willie Williams (with the accompaniment of J. Brown) respectively. The enigmatic J. Brown and possibly Willie Williams provide instrumental backing to singer J. Wilson on "Barrel House Blues," which was also recorded at the same penal institution. Jimmie Strothers' sublime "Goin' to Richmond," recorded at the State Farm in Lynn, Virginia, is undoubtedly the crown jewel in this collection. Although some might find the song's theme to be overly repetitive, in my not so humble opinion, this is as good as stream-of-consciousness blues lyrics get. Allison Mathis' "Mama You Goin' to Quit Me," with its wonderfully anarchic slide guitar playing, is an absolute tour de force, while the superb version of the folk standard "John Henry" finds him teamed up with ace harmonica player Jesse Stroller. Both are fine examples of Georgia blues that were not influenced by the twelve-string guitar stylings of Blind Willie McTell and others that were prevalent in Atlanta. The Smith Band was a group of unknown Georgia musicians whose "Fort Valley Blues" sounds like an instrumental that could have been performed by one of the numerous jug bands that were based in Memphis around the same time. Yes, the Buster Brown featured on this collection is the same Buster Brown who would later have a hit with "Fannie Mae." Recorded at Georgia's Fort Valley State College under the supervision of neglected black folklorist John Work (who apparently conducted a great deal of research for which Alan Lomax would later take credit), Brown's "War Song" and "I'm Gonna Make You Happy" give listeners an opportunity to hear the harmonicist in a younger, rawer incarnation. Gus Gibson, recorded at Fort Valley State College in Georgia on two separate occasions in 1941 and 1943, presents listeners with a unique "Milk Cow Blues" that does not bear any similarity to Kokomo Arnold's original as well as "Railroad Song," which both showcase his fine slide guitar work. More excellent slide guitar is featured in fellow Georgia blues singer Sonny Chestain's rendition of the standard "Po' Boy Long Way from Home." "Southern Rag" is a fine group performance by James Sneed's Washboard Band from Georgia with emphasis, of course, on the washboard. This collection's concluding five tracks are invaluable examples of prewar blues from Florida, a state that was unfortunately neglected by most record companies during the 1920s and 1930s. Thank goodness for writer and folklorist Zora Neal Thurston (her excellent book Mules and Men is recommended reading to all rural blues fans), who supervised the recordings of guitarists Gabriel Brown and Willy T. Flowers as well as harmonicist Booker T. Sapps and helped preserve some of the finest examples the state's African-American cultural heritage. "Talking in Sebastopol" is a moving slide guitar blues from Brown that features accompanying guitarist Rochelle French. Flowers' "Levee Camp Holler" features more excellent slide guitar work and chilling dual vocals by the instrumentalist and the aforementioned Sapps. The latter's "Alabama Blues (Part 1)" and the driving "Boot that Thing" not only showcases two harmonicas (with Roger Matthews chipping in on second harp) but Flowers' guitar as well. "The Weeping Worry Blues" is a solo harmonica blues with Sapps' handling the vocal duties as well.


As a document of blues from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida during the 1930s and early 1940s, you'll be hard pressed to find recordings as compelling as those featured on Red River Blues.

1. When I Lie Down - Blind Joe
2. In Trouble - Blind Joe
3. Trouble - Reese Crenshaw
4. Poor Joe Breakdown - Robert Davis
5. Not Satisfied - Jimmie Owens
6. Red River Blues - Willie Williams
7. Barrel House Blues - J. Wilson
8. Goin' to Richmond - Jimmie Strothers
9. Mama You Goin' to Quit Me - Allison Mathis
10. Fort Valley Blues - Smith Band
11. War Song - Buster Brown
12. Milk Cow Blues - Gus Gibson
13. Po' Boy Long Way from Home - Sonny Chestain
14. I'm Gonna Make You Happy - Buster Brown
15. Railroad Song - Gus Gibson
16. Southern Rag - James Sneed's Washboard Band
17. John Henry - Allison Mathis & Jesse Stroller
18. Talking in Sebastopol - Gabriel Brown
19. Alabama Blues (Part 1) - Booker T. Sapps
20. The Weeping Worry Blues - Booker T. Sapps
21. Levee Camp Holler - Willy Flowers
22. Boot that Thing - Booker T. Sapps

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Happy Hour Band - "Happy Now" (Splash 2, 2003)

This recording by Sky Saxon and Djin Aquarian is a post-Seeds, post-Yahowhan album featuring much of thee latters repetitional musicality. . . psychish bluesy somethymes droney. Carry on Sunlight!

"Highly" Recommended!

Email Djin at to order an autographed copy of yer very own. . . he is a real swell fellow!

Friday, July 10, 2009

a. paul ortega -- two worlds/three worlds (usa, 1969?)

nice two-for-one reissue of mesmerizingly alluring native american meditational trance folk.

snag it now or else tom laughlin might just have to hunt you down to karate chop your face...(that, or finally finish his long-promised/threatened fifth "billy jack" movie).

anyway; tracklisting:

01 the sunset
02 forty-nine
03 the back and forth
04 the stomp dance
05 the trail song
06 what is an indian?
07 traveling song
08 bird song
09 chicago
10 four ways
11 honor song
12 mocassin game
13 hand shake