Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sonny Scott - (1933) (Story of Blues, 1992)


There is not much that I can tell you about Sonny Scott since biographical details about this blues guitarist are pretty much nonexistent. He seems to have been part of the scene in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1920s and early 1930s as he was an associate of the better-known pianist (and occasional guitarist) Walter Roland and singer Lucille "Bessie Jackson" Bogan, whom he accompanied on many of their recordings. However, he also waxed 16 sides under his own name for the American Record Company in 1933, and on some of these he was backed by Roland.

In contrast to the neighboring state of Mississippi, blues musicians from Alabama did not seem to interest the race record labels as much, which is demonstrated by the relative paucity of 78s released by such artists. Most of the performers that were recorded tended to be pianists who played in the Birmingham barrelhouses. Thus, the state produced legendary ivory-ticklers such as Cow Cow Davenport, but couldn't do the same when it came to guitar players. A signature Alabama blues guitar sound never came into existence, so those who played that instrument and were recorded often featured instrumental characteristics that sound as if they were influenced by the styles of other regions.

Such is the case with Sonny Scott, whose approach often seems to change from track to track. "Coal Mountain Blues" and "Red Rooster Blues" feature fretwork that is at least superficially reminiscent of Texas blues musicians from the same era. "Man, Man, Man" and "No Good Biddie" are guitar duets with Roland, with the former being a remake of the two-part "Mister Man" that Papa Charlie Jackson and Ida Cox had recorded in 1925. The two versions of "Red Cross Blues" (which concerns itself with the mistreatment that blacks suffered at Red Cross relief stations during the Mississippi River flood of 1927) probably resulted from Roland's influence - although he seems to be absent from these sides - since he released what is generally regarded as the best-known and definitive version of the song. "Black Horse Blues" bears similarities to Charlie Patton's "Pony Blues," while "Firewood Man" comes off as something that could have been recorded by Buddy Boy Hawkins, another guitarist with Birmingham connections. "Naked Man Blues" and "Highway No. 2 Blues" rank as Scott's finest titles and contain some of his most impressive guitar work, although the sound quality is somewhat rough on both of these. "Try Me Man Blues" is pretty dull, but "Hard Luck Man" distinguishes itself as a superb duet, although the booklet notes list it as a solo performance. That can't be right, and I suspect that several other tracks on this CD are similarly misidentified. An interpretation of Charlie Spand's "Soon This Morning" (recast here as "Early") is the highlight among the trio of Scott-Roland guitar-piano pieces, which also includes the capable "Working Man's Moan" and "Rolling Water." The two were also occasionally billed as the Jolly Two, as is the case on the excellent two-guitar showpiece, "Frisco Blues," a relative of a song that the extremely obscure George "Big Boy" Owens recorded as "Kentucky Blues" in 1926. The closing track, the capable "Overall Blues," finds Roland on guitar once again and handling the vocals as well.

WALTER ROLAND

1. Coal Mountain Blues
2. Red Rooster Blues

3. Man, Man, Man
4. No Good Biddie

5. Red Cross Blues

6. Black Horse Blues

7. Firewood Man

8. Naked Man Blues

9. Highway No. 2 Blues

10. Try Me Man Blues

11. Hard Luck Man

12. Early This Morning
13. Working Man's Moan
14. Rolling Water
15. Frisco Blues
16. Red Cross Blues No. 2
17. Overall Blues

Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk Organ (Harmony, 1967)


Best known for his big instrumental hit from 1956, "Honky Tonk," keyboardist Bill Doggett is not an easy musician to pigeonhole since he had also played with the Ink Spots and Louis Jordan before breaking through on his own. Some people might take issue with the labels that I've assigned to him and say that he should be classified as an R&B musician. To my way of thinking, black music from the 1940s and 1950s described as such is better categorized as blues or rock 'n' roll. Never mind the fact that this LP was recorded in 1966 or thereabouts because the material is still very much in a 1950s and early 1960s vein. Doggett always did have a jazz side to him as well, and many of the cuts here compare favorably with material by other Hammond B-3 organ wizards such as Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff.


Recorded for Columbia's budget imprint Harmony, Honky Tonk Organ is a pleasant if not not life-changing instrumental album. It includes a two-part remake of "Honky Tonk" that the liner notes describe as "played at a slightly faster tempo to accommodate the newest dance steps." Don't worry, they don't try to make it psychedelic or anything like that; it's still very much in keeping with the original. Tracks such as "Canadian Sunset," "'Deed I Do," "All Souls Blues," and "Buster" make for agreeable swinging bachelor pad cocktail music. "Opus D" allows Doggett to stretch out a bit, while "St. Louis Blues" and "Careless Love" are nice, swinging interpretations of old standards. "Mommy Part 1" is cut from a cloth similar to "Honky Tonk," but what happened to "Part 2"?


Most of the performances utilize Doggett's typical organ-electric guitar-drum trio format, although there is a saxophonist that appears on many of the tracks as well. It's a pity that the backing musicians are uncredited, and especially the guitarist because his playing will appeal to those who are fans of Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. Overall, this LP is not as great as the classic sides that he did for King Records during the 1950s, but is still worth a spin nonetheless.


1. Honky Tonk Part 1

2. Canadian Sunset

3. 'Deed I Do
4. All Souls Blues

5. Buster

6. Honky Tonky Part 2

7. Opus D

8. St. Louis Blues

9. Careless Love

10. Mommy Part 1

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Angel Heart - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Antilles New Directions-Island, 1987)


Angel Heart has long resided in my list of all-time top ten movies. In my opinion, it has all the hallmarks of a five-star film: clever plot, great acting, intelligent action, a sense of eroticism, and a very hard-hitting ending. Although the bulk of what lead actor Mickey Rourke did during his late 1980s heyday was tripe, his portrayal of protagonist Harry Angel was a tour de force and arguably the best thing that he's done in his career. Robert DeNiro was still doing good things at the time and is absolutely outstanding in a supporting role as a thinly-disguised Satan operating under the identity of Louis Cyphre ("Mephistopheles is such a mouthful in Manhattan"). Even Lisa Bonet (remember her?) turns in a fine performance as young voodoo priestess Epiphany Proudfoot. Unfortunately - no thanks to Bill Cosby's overreaction - Angel Heart is best known for the intense sex scene between the erstwhile Denise Huxtable and Rourke, which in this second decade of the jaded 21st century probably wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. Add esteemed director Alan Parker to the mix, and you've got one hell of a motion picture.

TREVOR JONES (L) & COURTNEY PINE

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention another hallmark of a five-star film: a great soundtrack. And boy, does Angel Heart have one. As for the original music, it's essentially a two-man effort in which South African cinematic composer Trevor Jones and British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine join forces to create one of the most atmospheric film scores ever recorded. Amazingly, Jones' primary instrument here is the Synclavier. I've never been a big fan of synthesizers, but I must admit that this particular make and model is used quite effectively in this instance. Courtney Pine's haunting saxophone is superb on the extended musical sequences "Harry Angel," "Looking for Johnny," and "Johnny Favorite" and gives the listener an idea of why he's considered to be one of the greatest jazz artists that the UK has produced. Excerpts from the film's always interesting dialogue are interspersed throughout these pieces, and if you've seen the movie, some of the scenes will replay inside of your head as you're listening. The titles of these bits appear in italics under the tracks listed below.


Since much of Angel Heart takes place in New Orleans, Alan Parker also wisely included some classic blues and R&B performances on this soundtrack, such as an excerpt of Bessie Smith's "Honeyman Blues" and LaVern Baker's sultry "Soul on Fire." Crooner Glen Gray's "Girl of My Dreams" serves as the Johnny Favorite tune that bedevils Harry Angel as the story unfolds on screen. The finest songs on this album, however, belong to vocalist Lilian Boutte and veteran blues guitarist Brownie McGhee respectively on "The Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole" and "Rainy Rainy Day," which were both performed in the movie itself. Boutte has been accurately described as equal parts Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson, while McGhee needs no introduction. Unfortunately, the liner notes do not make mention of of the backing musicians on either of these cuts, which is a pity because they are both first-rate - "Rainy Rainy Day" especially since it stands as a highlight in the later part of Brownie's illustrious career.

HARRY ANGEL (MICKEY ROURKE) BECOMES ACQUAINTED
WITH EPIPHANY PROUDFOOT (LISA BONET)

1. Harry Angel
-Kingdom Mission
-Introducing Mr. Cyphre

-Fowler's

-Harlem Chase

-Lanza's

2. Honeyman Blues - Bessie Smith
3. Nightmare
-Secret Love
4. Girl of My Dreams - Glen Gray & the Casa Loma Orchestra
5. "I Got This Thing About Chickens"
6. The Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole - Lilian Boutte
7. Rainy Rainy Day - Brownie McGhee
8. Looking for Johnny
-Cajuns
-Epiphany

-I Am an Atheist

-Frightened Eyes Never Lie

9. Soul on Fire - LaVern Baker
10. Bloodmare
-Dog Tags
11. Johnny Favorite

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Brute Force (Embryo, 1970)


Say what you will about Herbie Mann's admittedly spotty discography, but the same nose for talent that served him well in selecting the accompanists for his best albums - such as Impressions of the Middle East, Memphis Underground, and Push Push - also effectively lent itself to helping him sign intriguing artists to his label and Atlantic subsidiary, Embryo Records. Although his detractors will argue that the flautist was always quick to exploit the latest musical trend for his own benefit, these same people also have to admit that his sense for what was going to be the next big thing was usually right-on. Not to mention the fact that Mann often exhibited better taste in deciding what was released on Embryo than he did in regard to choosing material for his own albums.


One of the finest titles in the imprint's catalogue, the eponymous lone LP from 1970 by Brute Force contains elements of funk, soul, avante-garde jazz, and even traces of African music and will appeal to those who enjoy early P-Funk, Sly and the Family Stone,
the Ohio Players, and contemporaneous material by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Unfortunately, very little is known about the band members, who included electric pianist, primary composer, and probable vocalist Richard Daniel, saxophonist-flautist Stanley Strickland, trumpeters Teddy Daniel, Jr. (Richard's brother?) and Arthur Ray Brooks, bassists (two bassists?) Russel I. Ingles and Thomas Lee Williams, drummer Sidney Smart, and conga player Robert A. Jones. The liner notes reveal that the group came into existence in 1968 while its personnel were students at Central State University (formerly College), a historically black institution of higher learning close to Dayton, Ohio. According to one source, the band members had been childhood friends of free jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, which explains his unmistakable presence on the proceedings. Indeed, his contributions help make what would have been a very good album a great one as his trademark feedback-laden guitar eruptions often emerge when the listener least expects them. Although Sharrock is credited on only three tracks, my ears tell me that he plays on all but one of them. That misinformation on the album sleeve could have been a typo or - perhaps for contractual reasons - intentional. At any rate, most of Sharrock's other recordings are just a little too free for my tastes, so it's nice to hear him play within the confines of an instrumentally advanced funk band, a setting in which I can better appreciate his formidable talents.

All of the album's cuts display the musicians' virtuosity and reveal them to be one tight unit. Assuming that Richard Daniel is indeed the vocalist, he has a pleasant, silky-smooth voice that counterbalances Sharrock's frenetic guitar salvos. The songs "Do It Right Now," "Some Kind of Approval," and "Right Direction" all have hooks aplenty and any of them could have been hits on the R&B charts with better luck and/or promotion. The instrumentals "Monster" (appropriately named) and "The Deacon" convincingly display the band's chops as does the quasi-tribal chant piece "Ye-Le-Wa," an ambitious jazz exploration that justifies its epic length. Another instrumental closes the LP, the mellow and atmospheric "Doubt," which another reviewer describes as "the perfect come-down piece." I couldn't have said it much better myself, so I'll just add that I think it sounds like something that would have not sounded out of place on either of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi or Crossings LPs.


1. Do It Right Now
2. Some Kind of Approval
3. The Deacon
4. Right Direction
5. Monster
6. Ye-Le-Wa
7. Doubt

Friday, July 23, 2010

Traditional Crossroads Sampler (Traditional Crossroads, 1998)


Traditional Crossroads is one of the best world music labels in the business. In keeping with owner Harold Hagopian's Armenian background, the bulk of its catalogue consists of recordings from Armenia, Turkey, and the Middle East, but it also includes several CDs featuring ethnic musicians from other countries. Despite its 1998 release date, this Traditional Crossroads Sampler (have there been others since then?) gives the listener a good overview of the label. I've already reviewed several of the albums from which these tracks are taken, but there are enough goodies from releases that I don't have in my collection to keep this compilation interesting. My only quibble about it is the fact that the titles of the songs are not listed anywhere, although the slip cover does include the names of the musicians and thumbnail photos of the corresponding albums. In cases where I did not own the disc that the performance originated from, I had to do a bit of research to ascertain its title. There is one instance where I could not find out this information and others where I may be in error - and if the latter applies, please correct me. Finally, I should mention that since this is a sampler, many of the selections are truncated versions of the original CD tracks, obviously done to whet your appetite for hearing them in their entirety.

YURI YUNAKOV

The first track is interesting since it explains the method by which the sound of vintage recordings reissued on Traditional Crossroads is restored. A before-and-after sample from a piece by Turkish composer Tanburi Cemil from the 1910s is effectively used for demonstrative purposes. After this prelude, a musical journey around the world begins. The first stop is the klezmer violin music of Alicia Svigals, followed by two tracks from the master of the duduk (the Armenian version of the oboe), Djivan Gasparyan. "Lamabambaa" is a spellbinding performance on the kora (a 20-string West African harp) by Senegalese musician
Morikeba Kouyate. Oudist extraordinaire Udi Hrant Kenkulian is represented both by a recording from the 1950s ("Dilerim Sen") as well as an earlier side ("Hicaz Taksim") recordedduring his prime. The excerpt of a performance by Kayhan Kalhor is a fascinating fusion of Persian and Indian instrumental styles, while the track by 4273 Nava is an interpretation of classical Iranian vocal music. The jaunty Balkan jazz piece "Cocek Manhattan" by Bulgarian saxophonist Yuri Yunakov really cooks, which is balanced by the soothing "Nihavent" from Gypsy Fire, a CD featuring an ensemble led by oud player (and Harold's father) Richard Hagopian. You'll even find some Cuban tunes here (all the rage during the 1990s because of the movie Buena Vista Social Club), including the sophisticated acoustic pop sounds of Cuarteto Tiempo as well as the more rural music of Grupo Changui. The hypnotic track by Turkish Gypsy fiddler Kemani Cemal comes from the extraordinary Sulukule CD, and the Kudsi Erguner Ensemble expertly interpret two pieces (apologies for the momentary glitch on the second one) from the repertory of early 20th-century Turkish violinist Kemani Tatyos Efendi. Up next are a kanun improvisation by Goksel Kartal as well as a hard-charging cut from another Richard Hagopian project, Kef Time. Female Turkish singer Mahmur Handan Hanim displays her vocal chops on "Karsiyakali," and then out of nowhere comes Dinny Doyle's Irish brogue on "Tommy Murphy Was a Soldier Boy." "Arap Oyun Havasi" by Kemani Haydar Tatliyay is one of many excellent tracks on Istanbul 1925, and if only I could tell you the title of the vocal performance by Armenian priest Komitas Vardapet (or perhaps a student of his, Armenak Shahmuradian) - can any readers help me out with this one? The concluding three tracks showcase the oud-playing talents of Udi Yorgo Bacanos and Marko Melkon Alemsherian.

UDI YORGO BACANOS

1. Introduction - Tanburi Cemil

2. Dem Tsadikis Zemrl - Alicia Svigals

3. Intz Mi Khuntrir (Ask Me No Questions) - Djivan Gasparyan

4. Pepo's Song - Djivan Gasparyan

5. Lamabambaa - Morikeba Kouyate

6. Dilerim Sen (Rast Sarki) - Udi Hrant
7. Duet For Kamancheh and Tombak - Kayhan Kalhor
8. Avaz-e Nahoft - 4273 Nava

9. Cocek Manhattan - Yuri Yunakov

10. Nihavent - Richard Hagopian & Omar Faruk Tekbilek

11. Noche Cubana - Cuarteto Tiempo

12. Kirkpinar Ciftetellisi - Kemani Cemal

13. Ussak Ney Taksim - Kudsi Erguner Ensemble
14. Gamzedeyim Deva Bulmam - Kudsi Erguner Ensemble
15. Nihavent Saz Semai - Goksel Kartal
16. Adalar - Richard Hagopian & Buddy Sarkissian

17. Karsiyakali - Mahmur Handan Hanim

18. Tommy Murphy Was a Soldier Boy - Dinny (Jimmy) Doyle & Larry Griffin
19. Arap Oyun Havasi - Kemani Haydar Tatliyay
20. Chubi Chubi - Grupo Changui

21. Hicaz Taksim - Udi Hrant
22. Unknown Title - Komitas Vartabet

23. Ussak Taksim - Udi Yorgo Bacanos
24. Seker Oglan - Marko Melkon

25. Aman Arap Kizi - Marko Melkon


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blackburn & Snow - Something Good for Your Head (Big Beat, 1999; 2007)


The music of Jeff Blackburn and Sherry Snow is an aural representation of what it was like to be young, turned-on, and in love during the early days of Haight-Ashbury circa 1965-1966. Yet another forgotten countercultural Bay Area act from one of America's most creative decades of the 20th century, this duo straddled the divisions between folk, folk rock, and psychedelia and helped define the first-wave San Francisco Sound. Despite recording an album's worth of material and having two singles released during their existence, Blackburn & Snow never realized their vast potential and were ultimately relegated to the periphery of a scene that they helped establish.


In keeping with the typically eclectic background of most San Franciscan musicians from the 1960s, Blackburn was a high school dropout with a background in country music by virtue of his upbringing in Bakersfield, California, while Snow was part of the coffeehouse music scene during her days as a college student in San Jose. Although they had initially met there earlier in the decade, the soon-to-be romantically-linked pair became reacquainted in San Francisco in 1964, where she had been renting a house with future members of Jefferson Airplane. In many ways, the duo never really abandoned their folk music roots since they often performed self-accompanied on acoustic instruments at places like the Ark in Sausalito and the hungry i in North Beach. The bulk of their studio work, however, was psychedelic folk rock, and although their gigs at venues such as the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium featured electric backing musicians, the couple never did have a regular band that worked behind them. Their signing with Trident Productions, owned by Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber, in late 1965 seemed like a good move - as did plans to record an LP for MGM-Verve - but youthfully stubborn idealism on Blackburn & Snow's part as well as a souring relationship between their business handlers and record label conspired to prevent them from achieving the success that they certainly deserved. After gigging in the Bay Area and spending considerable time in the studio throughout 1966, their last recordings took place in 1967, and their professional and personal relationship ended soon afterward.


Best known for the should-have-been hit single "Stranger in a Strange Land" (a song based on Robert Heinlein's book of the same name and possibly written by David Crosby under a pseudonym), Blackburn & Snow left a recorded legacy characterized by their soaring vocal harmonies, Jeff's formidable songwriting skills, and outstanding contributions from studio musicians such as the redoubtable lead guitarist (and future member of the Ventures) Gerry McGee. There is no denying the potency of "Stranger," which was rightfully included on the Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 box set, and yet its release symbolized the difficulties that the pair would experience while working in the music industry. As great of a performance as it is, they resented the fact that it was chosen to be their first single since just about everything else they recorded had been written by Blackburn. Furthermore, despite being recorded in 1966 (as were most of the other tracks on this CD), business decisions by Werber caused it to languish in the vaults for a year before it was finally issued in January 1967, thus contributing to its lack of success on the charts.


Many of the other 19 tracks included here were supposed to have appeared on their aforementioned planned album, which had a working title of Something Good for Your Head. Although the LP had been intended for release in April 1967, that plan never came to fruition due to the aforementioned disagreements involving MGM-Verve and Trident. The decision to shelve it was an injustice, but at least these recordings finally got to see the light of day more than 30 years later. The majestically anthemic "Yes Today" features one of the most mind-blowing electric guitar solos from 1966, while the dreamy "Takin' It Easy" explores Blackburn & Snow's more mellow side. The ahead-of-its time foray into country rock "Time" was the A-side to their second and last 45, which was backed with the vivacious and Dylanesque generational manifesto "Post-War Baby." (In contrast, the alternate version of this B-side sounds somewhat tentative, but is still interesting nonetheless.) The unusual time signatures and blazing guitars on "It's So Hard" combine to make it one of the duo's most psychedelic moments and is a fine example of early acid rock before the trips started going bad. "Do You Realize," "Think," and "Stand Here" all compare favorably - and perhaps even exceed - the folk rock glory of early Jefferson Airplane, and it's not surprising that Sherry Snow was one of the female singers considered as a possible replacement for Signe Anderson. The enchanting acoustic number "Sure or Sorry" contains incredibly exquisite vocal harmonies - even more so than usual - and presents the listener with an idea of what Blackburn & Snow sounded like when they performed as a duo at small clubs. The same goes for "Some Days I Feel Your Lovin'," "I Recall the Day," "I Don't Want You Back Babe," and "Stop Leanin' on Me," which apparently are all demo recordings. The short but sweet "Unchain My Heart," the only other song on this CD not written by Blackburn, hearkens back to rock 'n' roll of an earlier era. "Uptown-Downtown," the B-side to their aforementioned first single, provides social commentary in a spirited folk rock setting. This is followed by the couple's last recording, the joyous "No Kidding," with its upbeat mood belying the disappointment that they must have felt from their lack of commercial success. The jangly "Every Day Brings Better Things" features arrangements reminiscent of the Byrds and early Love, while the last cut, the instrumental backing track "Pass This Way," offers a tantalizing glimpse of a work in progress.

1. Stranger in a Strange Land
2. Yes Today
3. Takin' It Easy
4. Time
5. It's So Hard
6. Do You Realize
7. Sure or Sorry
8. Unchain My Heart
9. Uptown-Downtown
10. Some Days I Feel Your Lovin'
11. Post-War Baby
12. Think
13. No Kidding
14. I Recall the Day
15. Every Day Brings Better Things
16. Stand Here
17. I Don't Want You Back Babe
18. Stop Leanin' on Me
19. Post-War Baby (alternate version)
20. Pass This Way (backing track)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vols. II & III (Orata, 1990s?)



By request.

I received a decent amount of positive feedback for my review of Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. I that I wrote back in May 2009. So here are Vol. II and Vol. III for your enjoyment. I prefer writing posts about LPs or CDs that are actually in my collection instead of music that I find in cyberspace and download, but every now and then even this blogger changes his modus operandi. I came across these two titles on a web page from a sort of music blog-forum hybrid and am now passing them on to you dear readers. Originally, each CD was ripped as one file, but I dissected each track into a separate MP3 so that the performances can be listened to on an individual basis. Unfortunately, the booklet notes for Vol. II are incomplete, while those for Vol. III were not included in the files that I downloaded. Still, something is better than nothing, right?


Much of what I wrote in my essay on the first set of this series is also applicable here since the music is very much in the same vein. Previously, I described it as otherworldly. This time, I'll call it mystical and rapturous. Whatever words that one chooses to use, these performances really don't resemble anything else to which I can compare them. Just imagine yourself walking the streets of Constantinople circa 1000 A.D., and this is possibly what you might hear coming out of concert halls or being played in outdoor amphitheaters. This is definitely music that sounds ancient.


CHRISTODOULOS HALARIS (STANDING CENTER) IN
THE STUDIO DURING AN EARLIER MUSICAL PROJECT

During the time between this post and the post for Vol. I, I've done a bit of reading on Christodoulos Halaris, the man who researched and organized the recording of this material during the 1990s. It seems that he has a mathematical background and utilized this knowledge to assist him in deciphering the musical notation system employed by Byzantine composers. One reader who had left a comment on the first volume described these performances as a type of "numerically-influenced music founded by the Pythagoreans," which now makes a lot more sense to me. As glorious as this material is, Halaris is not without his detractors as some people have apparently criticized his interpretative methods. However, until a scientist invents an audio time machine that allows us to hear what music from ancient civilizations really sounded like, this is probably as close as we'll ever get. I really like the manner in which a reviewer on Amazon named Bruce Tutcher summarized his feelings about these recordings:
To listen to (Halaris') albums is to read Robert Graves' White Goddess. It's probably mostly wrong, but the ideas are so fertile and extensive as to be like the thrill of viewing newer photographs by the Hubble (telescope) of the young universe. Do the photographs have any real physical verisimilitude, or do they evoke something we feel? This is how I listen to this music.
Me too, Bruce.


Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. II

Disc 1

1. Nai
2. Military
3. Untitled
4. Untitled
5. Very Beautiful

Disc 2

1. Tataric Kratima
2. Pleasant Musical Work
3. Untitled
4. Untitled

Disc 3

1. Nightingale Kratima
2. Polychronism to Ioannis Petros Voevodas
3. Secular Kratima
4. Persian Kratima

Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. III

Disc 1

1. The Orphan
2. Muskali
3. Untitled
4. Rodaion

5. Papadikon

Disc 2

1. Dysphyros

2. The Nightingale

3. O Pany Oraios

4. Untitled

5. Untitled


Disc 3


1. The Wheel

2. Diapason

3. Untitled

4. O Pani Kalon

5. Persikon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Red Chair Fadeaway - Mesmerised (English Garden, 1993)


Just to show you how behind-the-times I am, this is an example of what I would consider to be "new" music, despite the fact that this album came out 17 years ago. During their late 1980s-early 1990s heyday, Red Chair Fadeaway (whose name came from an early Bee Gees' song) was one of England's most compelling up-and-coming groups. Although they never achieved anything beyond cult band status, they developed a passionate following among fans of psychedelia who were looking for something that was new and yet faithful to the experimental spirit of the 1960s. I remember being introduced to their music from a friend I had made during my 1993-1994 academic year abroad at the University of York. He felt that I needed to expand my horizons and listen to more modern bands. He made me a cassette dub of Red Chair Fadeaway's two albums, and I quickly became hooked.

SHIRLEY SOUTER

The group's leader was veritable Renaissance woman Shirley Souter. In addition to possessing an angelic voice, she is equally skilled on guitar and keyboards as well as being an accomplished artist. That's her painting that graces the album cover. Assisted by fellow multi-instrumentalists Richard Mason and Tim Vass in addition to various guest drummers, Red Chair Fadeaway created music that was simultaneously progressive yet steeped in traditions ranging from English Romantic poetry to acid folk to fuzz-laden mind-expanding rock.


TIM VASS

Although not quite the equal of their first album, Curiouser and Curiouser...,
Mesmerised effectively continues to explore the musical territory covered on Red Chair Fadeaway's debut. Despite the fact that the tracks collectively aren't as distinctive as their counterparts on the predecessor, they are still evocative of pastoral England in all of its verdant beauty. If such imagery appeals to you, then you will find a lot to like about this CD. For the most part, the songs rock without being heavy but also without falling into the trap of easy listening music. The dreamy "I'm Not Trying" wears the band's 1960s influences on its sleeve, with the sitar and Moroccan hand drums giving it a suitably exotic flavor. In similar fashion, the backwards percussion bits and Tim Vass' majestic lead guitar work contribute to make "Homestead Moat" an enchanting example of early 1990s psychedelia. The words to "The Plaitman of Bedfordshire" come from traditional lyrics that originally appeared on a centuries-old broadsheet, though the supporting music is entirely Red Chair Fadeaway's. In a nutshell, it nicely encapsulates the band's musical approach of merging elements of historic Britannia with the last decade of the 20th century. The serene "Cristatus" sounds like the sum of influences ranging from Nick Drake to Roy Harper to the Incredible String Band, while "Hot Rain" features an awe-inspiring guitar break from Richard Mason. The brief "Happy with Your Lot" serves as a bridge to Mesmerised's weakest moment, the overly synthesizer-reliant "Clear, Clear to Me." Unfortunately, those electronic keyboards sabotage what could have been a great song. Matters are quickly rectified with the exquisite acid folk piece "Sweet Way" and the gently rolling "Don't Close the Door." While primarily a showpiece for Souter's always delightful vocals, the kitchen-sink production on "Under Clouds" also utilizes Mason's mandolin and Vass' harmonica - in addition to a wide variety of other instruments - in an impressive fashion. Red Chair Fadeaway could not have come up with a better title for "Dream River" as the song certainly does possess a phantasmagorically fluid quality due in large part to the guitars that weave in and out as they emerge from your sound system's speakers. The album wraps up with a relatively straight-ahead rocker, "On Telegraph Hill," whose title leads me to wonder if it's a reference to San Francisco and by extension to the psychedelic sounds that originated from Haight-Ashbury and changed the world.

RICHARD MASON

1. I'm Not Trying
2. Homestead Moat
3. The Plaitman of Bedfordshire
4. Cristatus
5. Hot Rain
6. Happy with Your Lot
7. Clear, Clear to Me
8. Sweet Way
9. Don't Close the Door
10. Under Clouds
11. Dream River
12. On Telegraph Hill

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ten Years of Black Country Religion 1926-1936 (Yazoo, 1970)


Yazoo's first all-gospel release, Ten Years of Black Country Religion 1926-1936 compiles spiritual sides by both sanctified musicians and bluesmen masquerading as religious singers, not that the listener could make such distinctions based upon the performances alone. To wit, those who usually played "the devil's music" sound just as convincing doing Christian material on this album, which further demonstrates the strong connections between blues and gospel. In this age of Goodbye, Babylon and JSP box sets, some people might not get too excited about the selections on this LP if they already have them in their collections. Even so, this record presents the thoughtfully-sequenced performances in superior sound quality and features top-notch liner notes, the typical hallmarks of titles in the original Yazoo 1000-series.


With the exception of one track, all of the songs on Ten Years of Black Country Religion are vocal performances with guitar accompaniment. In some cases, the instrument is played in a conventional fashion, while in others, the slide technique - which some music researchers theorize had been pioneered by gospel musicians - is utilized to excellent effect. As one would expect, the singing on these recordings is nothing short of emotionally intense. Ergo, even the most militant atheist may find the 14 performances included here to be of interest, as long as he or she is a fan of prewar blues. Regarding the relationship between that particular genre and gospel, the liner notes written by Stephen Calt et al. provides the following explanation:
As everyone knows, gospel singing styles have made a basic contribution to the soul music that is our current "folk" music. Once scholars argued that blues evolved from gospel. It is at least true that bluesmen like Skip James sang in a choir long before they were exposed to blues, which were generally regulated (sic) to barrelhouses that were off-limits to children. Later bluesmen had considerable difficulty in choosing the one medium over the other as the basis for a career, and in articulating the differences between sacred and "low-down" music, James felt that blues and spirituals used the same musical ideas, but for incompatible purposes. His distinction between the spiritual's inspirational and the blues' entertainment function was probably maintained by most blues artists.

JAYBIRD COLEMAN AS HE APPEARS IN AN
ADVERTISEMENT FROM THE CHICAGO DEFENDER

Charlie Patton's gospel sides are as compelling as his blues records, which is conclusively demonstrated by the three tracks that appear on this compilation. Although it features some of his least complex instrumental accompaniment, "Lord I'm Discouraged" (aka "There'll Be Glory") is an extremely moving performance due in large part to his yearning vocals and sympathetic slide guitar, which was probably played lap-style. Even more interesting is "Prayer of Death" (released under the nom de disc of "Elder J.J. Hadley"), a two-part performance that includes a medley of "Take a Stand," "I've Been 'Buked and Scorned," and "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand" as well as sections in which he makes his guitar "talk" or sound like church bells. Hailing from the East Coast, Kid Prince Moore performed blues and gospel with equal skill, and the relatively late-period (1936) pieces "Church Bells" (which is similar to Patton's "Oh Death") and "Sign of Judgement" bear technical similarities to the works of other Piedmont artists. Mississippian Blind Willie Davis, on the other hand, strictly played spiritual numbers and, according to Gayle Dean Wardlow, only reluctantly went into the studio because he was concerned that Paramount would try to coerce him into recording blues material. Evidently, this never happened, and enthusiasts of prewar black gospel are the better for it as "I've Got a Key to the Kingdom" and "Your Enemy Cannot Harm You" make evident. As with Patton, Davis probably performed both of these bottleneck masterpieces with the guitar in his lap. Many consider the driving "Arise and Shine" to be Memphis preacher Lonnie McIntorsh's finest moment, and I can't say that I would dispute that contention. One of the first Southern bluesmen to be recorded, Bo Weavil Jackson was yet another black guitarist who was equally conversant in performing sacred or profane material. His actual name may have been James Jackson, although on "I'm on My Way to the Kingdom Land," he recorded under the moniker of Sam Butler. Regardless of his true identity, the performance is a sanctified tour de force - albeit a sloppy one - especially when he starts slapping the bass string and tapping the body of his guitar for added emphasis. Burl "Jaybird" Coleman earned his reputation from his harmonica-blowing skills, which were displayed on songs that consisted almost entirely of blues numbers. However, this Georgia-born and Alabama-based harpist waxed a couple of gospel tunes as well. The sublime "I'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan Some o' These Days" finds him backed by a second harmonicist, the totally obscure Ollis Martin, which makes this side unique among recordings by prewar African American musicians. "Go I'll Send Thee" and "Everybody Ought to Pray Sometime" get my vote for Ten Years of Black Country Religion's best tracks. It's a shame that virtually nothing is known about Dennis Crumpton and Robert Summers, the artists responsible for these transcendent spirituals. Their duet singing is remarkable as are the twin slide guitars exhibited on the latter title. Even Blind Lemon Jefferson, the first superstar blues guitarist, released the occasional gospel number. "Where Shall I Be?" dates from 1927 - the peak of his popularity - and "All I Want Is That Pure Religion" (on which he is billed as "Deacon L.J. Bates") comes from his very first recording session in 1925.


1. Lord I'm Discouraged - Charlie Patton
2. Church Bells - Kid Prince Moore
3. Sign of Judgement - Kid Prince Moore
4. I've Got a Key to the Kingdom - Blind Willie Davis
5. Your Enemy Cannot Harm You - Blind Willie Davis
6. Arise and Shine - Lonnie McIntorsh
7. I'm on My Way to the Kingdom Land - Bo Weavil Jackson
8. I'm Gonna Cross the River of Jordan Some o' These Days - Jaybird Coleman
9. Prayer of Death Part I - Charlie Patton
10. Prayer of Death Part II - Charlie Patton
11. Go I'll Send Thee - Dennis Crumpton & Robert Summers
12. Everybody Ought to Pray Sometime - Dennis Crumpton & Robert Summers
13. Where Shall I Be? - Blind Lemon Jefferson
14. All I Want Is That Pure Religion - Blind Lemon Jefferson

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chicago South Side Vol. 2 1927-1929 (Historical, 1969)


With Chicago's rich blues history, it's sometimes easy to forget that this bustling Midwestern metropolis also possessed a thriving jazz scene during the 1920s and 1930s. In similar fashion to the Mississippi bluesmen who had relocated to the Windy City during the early 20th century, a significant number of jazz musicians from New Orleans followed the same path. Not surprisingly, race record labels in Chicago and other cities in the region were eager to feature artists from both genres in their catalogues to ensure that they would appeal to as many potential black customers as possible, regardless of whether their tastes were downhome or sophisticated.

JIMMY NOONE

In spite of its title, Chicago South Side Vol. 2 1927-1929 actually collects material recorded between 1927 and 1931. The label on which it appeared, Historical, was an enterprise operated by Arnold Caplin, who also owned Biograph, another company that specialized in reissuing prewar African American music. Overall, this compilation has something of a transitional feel as many of the performances seem to have one foot in the raucous hot jazz sounds of New Orleans with the other standing in territory occupied by the more orchestrated style that would become prevalent during the 1930s.


OMER SIMEON

Things get started with material from clarinetist Jimmy Noone's aggregation, which recorded the uptown "Melancholy Baby" and "After You've Gone" in 1929. The latter title features the singing of Helen Savage. "It's You," from 1931, finds the legendary Earl Hines occupying the piano stool and white crooner Arthur Jarrett, Jr. handling the vocal chores. Pianist Tiny Parham's 1929 sides "Bombay" and "Golden Lily" showcase the talents of cornetist Punch Miller among others. As Caplin explains in the liner notes, "The commercial beginnings belie the hot solos to come. Throughout these tracks there is a strange mixture of commercial ensemble playing and hot jazz solos with a solid backing." These pieces perfectly represent the transitional nature of many of this LP's performances that I had previously mentioned. In contrast, the Dixie Rhythm Kings' "Story Book Ball" and "Easy Rider," also from 1929, come off as compositions that very easily could have been recorded at an earlier time in New Orleans instead of Chicago. The group's most prominent members included cornetists George Mitchell and Shirley Clay as well as clarinetist Omer Simeon. The most exuberant tracks on Chicago South Side Vol. 2 belong to the Chicago Footwarmers, a quartet made up of the celebrated Johnny Dodds on clarinet, his brother Baby on washboard, Natty Dominique on cornet, and Jimmy Blythe on piano. As any hot jazz enthusiast will tell you, that's quite an impressive list of personnel. "Ballin' the Jack" and "Granma's Ball" both date from 1927. Recorded the same year, "Boar Hog Blues" by Hightower's Nighthawks is another side that sounds like something that one could have heard in New Orleans circa 1900. Cornetist Willie Hightower of course was the outfit's leader, although Bud Scott's elegant guitar solo deserves mention as the performance's highlight. Another all-star band, the State Street Ramblers included the aforementioned Dominique and Blythe in addition to percussionist W.E. Burton and an unknown alto saxophonist. Even though the liner notes list Burton on drums, to my ears it sounds like he's playing a washboard more than anything else on the superb "Shanghai Honeymoon" (which, as its title suggests, has an ersatz Asian-sounding bit in the middle section) and "Tack It Down," both recorded in 1928. "My Baby" and "Oriental Man" come from the same year but were waxed by Jimmy Blythe's Washboard Wizards, a trio that was comprised of the pianist, Johnny Dodds, and W.E. Burton. That these songs have such a full sound is a testament to the virtuosity of the instrumentalists.

NATTY DOMINIQUE

1. Melancholy Baby - Jimmy Noone's Orchestra
2. After You've Gone - Jimmy Noone's Orchestra
3. It's You - Jimmy Noone's Orchestra
4. Bombay - Tiny Parham and His Musicians
5. Golden Lily - Tiny Parham and His Musicians
6. Story Book Ball - Dixie Rhythm Kings
7. Easy Rider - Dixie Rhythm Kings
8. Ballin' the Jack - The Chicago Footwarmers
9. Granma's Ball - The Chicago Footwarmers
10. Boar Hog Blues - Hightowers Nighthawks
11. Shanghai Honeymoon - State Street Ramblers
12. Tack It Down - State Street Ramblers
13. My Baby - Jimmy Blythe's Washboard Wizards
14. Oriental Man - Jimmy Blythe's Washboard Wizards

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Finchley Boys - Champaign Music Festival Photos - Champaign, Illinois - Saturday, July 10, 2010

If you've already read the northstar grassman's preceding post, then you know about our attendance at the First Annual Champaign Music Festival, which featured, among other acts, the Finchley Boys' first concert in 40 years. While the show itself wasn't exactly a life-changing event, I still had a very good time and thought that the trip down from the Chicago area had been worth it. Even if I didn't feel as though I had been brought back in time to 1968, the reformed band did play two of the best songs from their Everlasting Tributes LP, "Outcast" and "It All Ends," and it was pretty cool to hear those tunes played live.

Of course, the highlight of evening was scoring a sealed original copy of their aforementioned album. As the grassman explained, singer George Faber had mentioned something in between songs about how much these records went for on eBay before chucking one out into the crowd. It just didn't occur to me that the souvenir he had just parted with was in fact the genuine article. I knew that an official vinyl reissue of Everlasting Tributes was coming out in the near future, so I figured that what they were selling at the merchandise stand must have been advance copies of that repressing. As with other unsanctioned releases on the Eva label, the sound quality on my CD version of
Everlasting Tributes isn't the best, so I still wanted to buy the LP, even if it wasn't an original.

I first sensed that something was up when I saw the guy in line in front of me buying seven copies at once. After I forked over my 20 bucks, I thoroughly examined the item. Nothing indicated that it was a reproduction, but I had to be sure one way or another, so I opened it. I was immediately greeted by that musty old smell with which all you record collectors out there are familiar. I started to get a little excited. After looking at the label on the record itself, I realized that Faber hadn't been kidding. This was the real deal: a 1972 original of the Finchley Boys' recordings from 1968 and 1969. After checking out the artifact, a couple of other people in our group followed suit and came back from the merchandise stand with their own collectibles. Considering the low price, I probably should have bought two - the first as a player copy and the other to remain sealed for investment purposes - but hey, one is still better than nothing. I got the band members to autograph the record cover after the show, during which time they confirmed the authenticity of what they were signing. The Finchley Boys also seemed open to my interview request for the purpose of doing a historical article about them, and I already got the go-ahead from Mike Stax at Ugly Things for such an endeavor, so stay tuned for more information about that project. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below.


The Finchley Boys back after 40 years (click to enlarge)


Garrett Oostdyk on guitar with George Faber (click to enlarge)



Rock's first bass player with one name, Tabe (click to enlarge)



For some folks, like J. Michael Powers, the 1960s have never ended (click to enlarge)



Garrett Oostdyk solos on his lovely Gibson Explorer (click to enlarge)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

a tale of a record collector's redemption


i've lived in champaign-urbana, illinois for a long time now. wasn't born & raised here, but it's home. i've lived here longer than anywhere else in my life--just about twenty years, all said and done. if you're a record collector living in this town--particularly a collector of psychedelic music--the album "everlasting tributes" by the finchley boys is, well, not the holiest of C-U holy grails--that honor might fall toward this album--but a pretty damn coveted grail no matter how you deify it (while a wonderful slice of acid-infected blues rock, it's certainly not perfection--for a hometown boy, though, hell...might as well be). in short, it's a must have, especially for a townie.

about nine years ago i was dating a woman for several weeks before i met her parents. i had seen a CDR in her car of her stepfather's band from the '80s; i can't remember their exact name, but it was something uninspiring-sounding. "the rave", maybe. i just imagined he "jammed" every weekend or so in pickup bands, playing to drunk central illinoisians, and that was about that. when i finally went to her parents' house in a neighboring town for dinner one night, in the course of a conversation with her stepdad, i mentioned sky saxon's name, and he remarked, "oh, my band played with the seeds back in the day". very intrigued, i asked, "what band were you in??"--well, you can possibly guess what's coming. he replied, "it was this little band called the finchley boys". my eyes bulged out of my head like a bugs bunny cartoon. i immediately looked at my girlfriend incredulously--she knew i was a record collector...how could this have not come up before now? seriously; how??!! sensing my obvious excitement (an understatement), and knowing his stepdaughter's affection for me, he walked into the next room, and came back out, handing me a sealed copy of their LP, free. okay, it's not a mortgage-a-house-with kind of rarity (goes for around 80-200 bucks on ebay) , but i still don't ever spend more than about 40 bucks on one LP--and even that's a lot. i'm not rich. this was valuable to me, and in more ways than just monetary. anyway, point is, i was so amazingly thrilled, and, in light of this coincidental occurrence, my relationship with the girl had an amazing afterglow.

in fact, many have conjectured since then (rightfully so), i was only with this woman because her stepdad was in the finchley boys. for, despite the aforementioned brilliant afterglow, and some other genuinely good times, we were not a good match. in fact, on the surface, a pretty terrible match. she was quite religious; i am quite not. caused a lot of conflict (amongst our other differences). and by a lot, i mean, a lot. we lasted, overall, a few months, and the break up was bad. very, very bitter. lots of fighting. on the evening we finally broke it off, in about december of '01, after an extremely unpleasant argument, i went back to my house and started hastily picking up a bunch of her things left there, and on a small stand in my living room that displays some of my favorite LPs, was that finchley boys staring out at me. it was a symbol of the happiness that we had briefly shared, swimming in the glow of serendipity. she knew how much it meant to me. and in my anger over our break up, at that particular moment, staring at the LP, i knew i couldn't have a constant reminder of my perceived failure to maintain that happiness around the house (or so i thought). i picked it up, threw it on top of the bag with her stuff, had a friend drive me over to her place, said a giant (childish) "fuck you", and just dumped it all in her room, with the record in plain view--i wanted it to sting, to make her really know the hurt i was feeling. "THIS is what you made me do!"; that sort of hooey. and so, as quickly as the LP had entered my life, it was gone.

man oh man, if only i'd slept on it. if only i'd waited--sheesh, an hour?--before making that boneheaded decision, i would've--of course--kept it. because very shortly after dumping it at her place, i was banging my head against the wall for doing something so, so idiotic. to appease myself, i bought a bootleg LP to fill that huge gaping void on my display shelf. but, of course, it wasn't the same. not even close. i would've done anything to reverse that action/reaction, to get the LP back. but i couldn't.

well, last night, as part of champaign's 150th anniversary celebration, the finchley boys surprisingly got back together to play their first concert in about forty years. it was an okay show--a step above classic rock "state fair" type bands, and all involved were clearly having fun being on stage again for their hometown crowd. at one point the singer pulled out a copy of "everlasting tributes", and described its present rarity and value, then announced "and now you can buy one at our merch table for 20 bucks!" before throwing the LP in his hand out to a lucky member of the audience. my friends attending with me (one of them Record Fiend himself; another a local record store owner) were very doubtful these were original LPs they're selling, as, official reissues (on CD and LP) are due this year. it must be an advance pressing of the reissue? *must* be. well, someone walked over and bought one nonetheless--and we still weren't convinced it was the original. perhaps the reissue label was disguising itself, keeping a mystery alive, and not mentioning their name *anywhere* on the LP? maybe? it had to be unsealed (which is a bummer, as the band name is only on a blue sticker affixed to the outside of the shrinkwrap) to be sure--the paper sleeve housing the vinyl had a yellow-ish, old-ish overall stain, and, it sure did smell old. not a single hint anywhere on it of being a reissue. all of us standing there realized at about the same moment--this really is an original LP they're selling for about 1/10th of its value. i borrowed ten dollars from an extraordinarily kind friend of a friend, as i never carry cash anymore, and just hoped that my buddy who went to the merch table came back with LPs before they were gone. and, well, it wouldn't be a tale of redemption if he came back empty-handed now, would it?

i came home, and just about nine years after the fact, was able to put an original finchley boys LP back up on my display stand, sealed, as it will stay--and i will never, ever take it down again. whatever cosmic force out there looked down and smiled on a formerly-regretful record collector, thank you.

and, elizabeth, wherever you are, i hope you're doing well.

--the north star grassman

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oscar Woods & Black Ace - Complete Recorded Works 1930-1938 in Chronological Order (Document, 1992)


The title of this CD is something of a misnomer since only one of the featured musicians was from Texas. Nevertheless, Oscar "Buddy" Woods (aka the Lone Wolf) and B.K. "Black Ace" Turner are rightly paired on this release since they were both lap-style slide guitarists whose playing resembled one another's. Their similarities resulted from the fact that Ace apprenticed for a time with Woods during the early 1930s. Although this method of performing had originated in Hawaii and peaked in popularity during the 1900s and 1910s, many blues musicians adapted and utilized the technique to such an extent that some people mistakenly believe lap-style guitar was invented by performers of that genre.


Woods hailed from the area within the Shreveport-Natchitoches corridor of western Louisiana, which was also the birthplace of the considerably better known Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter. The first of the two cities mentioned provided him with an abundance of opportunities to perform professionally as a street singer and at the numerous juke joints that were in existence during the 1920s. For a musician as prolific as he was and whose last recording session in 1938 was relatively late in the game for a prewar blues artist, biographical details are surprisingly few and far between. At some point during his career, Woods teamed up with another lap-style slide guitarist named Ed "Dizzy Head" Schaffer, who also sang and played kazoo. They collectively went by the memorable appellation of the Shreveport Home Wrecker and recorded the outstanding "Fence Breakin' Blues" b/w the derivative "Home Wreckin' Blues" in 1930. During the same session, they accompanied future Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis on the smutty "She's a Hum Dum Dinger (From Dingersville)" and "Bear Cat Mama from Horner's Corners." Exactly how this collaboration came about is unclear, but it's the results that really matter since these sides are a dream combination of hillbilly music and blues. Fortunately, the trio reunited two years later, during which time they waxed four more similarly bawdy pieces: the talking blues of "Saturday Night Stroll," "Sewing Machine Blues," "Red Nightgown Blues," and the "Salty Dog" variant, "Davis's Salty Dog." It's hard to believe that this is the same Jimmie Davis who, in addition to his political career, was known for spiritual music and, of course, "You Are My Sunshine." In 1936, Woods recorded three solo sides, including "Evil Hearted Woman Blues," the namesake performance "Lone Wolf Blues," and his signature tune, "Don't Sell It - Don't Give It Away." The material from a 1937 session demonstrates his remarkable adaptability once again, this time by playing with a small ensemble known as the Wampus Cats, a group that featured a second guitarist, pianist, and bass player (all unknowns) on "Muscat Hill Blues" and a revisitation of "Don't Sell It (Don't Give It Away)" in addition to an anonymous drummer and pianist Kitty Gray on the unissued and almost jazzy "Baton Rouge Rag." 1938 found Woods' music progressing even further with a more uptown lineup of the Wampus Cats that even included a trumpeter on most numbers. Indeed, "Jam Session Blues," "Low Life Blues," and "Token Blues" sound downright sophisticated compared to most country blues from the same period, although the hornless "Come on Over to My House Baby" returns the Lone Wolf to a more downhome musical setting.

POST-REDISCOVERY BLACK ACE, 1960s

Black Ace (who is probably the person in the photo on the CD booklet cover) definitely owes much of his style to the influence of Oscar Woods. Although he was from Hughes Springs, Texas (close to Dallas), he temporarily relocated to Shreveport, as mentioned previously, where he partnered with the Lone Wolf for a spell. While his mentor's guitar playing seemed to become more refined between 1930 and 1938, Ace's modus operandi hearkens back to an earlier time. Paradoxically, his style sounds more rural than Woods' even though he lived in a larger metropolitan area. The six sides - "Trifling Woman," "Black Ace," "You Gonna Need My Help Some Day," "Whiskey and Women," "Christmas Time Blues (Beggin' Santa Claus)," and "Lowing Heifer" - that Ace recorded in 1937 are spartan and emotionally resonant. His only accompanist is a conventional guitarist, who some researchers believe to be Smokey Hogg. Although the songs concern themselves with the typical blues subjects, they are lyrically unique for the most part. Unlike Woods - who disappeared after 1938 - Ace was rediscovered and recorded during the 1960s, which gave him the opportunity to perform for a new set of fans during the last few years before his death in 1972.

1. She's a Hum Dum Dinger (From Dingersville) - Oscar Woods w/Jimmie Davis, vocal
2. Fence Breakin' Blues - Shreveport Home Wreckers
3. Home Wreckin' Blues - Shreveport Home Wreckers
4. Bear Cat Mama from Horner's Corners
- Oscar Woods w/Jimmie Davis, vocal
5. Saturday Night Stroll - Jimmie Davis & Oscar Woods, vocal duet
6. Sewing Machine Blues
- Oscar Woods w/Jimmie Davis, vocal
7. Red Nightgown Blues
- Oscar Woods w/Jimmie Davis, vocal
8. Davis's Salty Dog
- Oscar Woods w/Jimmie Davis, vocal
9. Evil Hearted Woman Blues - Oscar Woods (The Lone Wolf)
10. Lone Wolf Blues - Oscar Woods
(The Lone Wolf)
11. Don't Sell It - Don't Give It Away - Oscar Woods (The Lone Wolf)
12. Muscat Hill Blues - Buddy Woods with the Wampus Cats
13. Don't Sell It (Don't Give It Away)
- Buddy Woods with the Wampus Cats
14. Baton Rouge Rag - Kitty Gray and her Wampus Cats
15. Jam Session Blues - Buddy Woods (Acc. by "Wampus Cats")
16. Low Life Blues
- Buddy Woods (Acc. by "Wampus Cats")
17. Token Blues
- Buddy Woods (Acc. by "Wampus Cats")
18. Come Over to My House Baby
- Buddy Woods (Acc. by "Wampus Cats")
19. Trifling Woman - Black Ace (Buck Turner)
20. Black Ace
- Black Ace (Buck Turner)
21. You Gonna Need My Help Some Day
- Black Ace (Buck Turner)
22. Whiskey and Women
- Black Ace (Buck Turner)
23. Christmas Time Blues (Beggin' Santa Claus)
- Black Ace (Buck Turner)
24. Lowing Heifer
- Black Ace (Buck Turner)