Magazine article Guitar Player

Blues Old and New

Magazine article Guitar Player

Blues Old and New

Article excerpt

The blues will never die. Yes, that's a cliche, but the obvious truth of the phrase is affirmed by constant reissues of classic material and new releases by old masters and young guns alike. A bountiful crop of recent CDs is further testament to the immortal vitality of the genre.

The two-CD The Aristocrat Of the Blues [MCA] chronicles the 1947-'50 releases from the Chicago-based Aristocrat label--the forerunner of Chess Records. Starting out with piano-centered boogie woogies and jump, the label's focus eventually shifted to the electrified Delta blues of Muddy Waters and the superb, streamlined slide of his friend, Robert Nighthawk. Nowhere are Waters' debts to Nighthawk and Robert Johnson better documented than on these Aristocrat sides.

Another two-CD set, John Lee Hooker's The Complete '50s Chess Recordings [MCA], includes his Gone, Hi-Q, and Fortune singles, as well as nearly two dozen tracks absent from His Best Chess Sides. Hooker's foot-stomping boogies for one or two guitars are ferociously good, and his "Mad Man Blues" is an early example of intentional distortion.

Snapshots of live blues in '67 are captured on four CDs from Just A Memory Records (5455 rue Pare, Suite 101, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H49 1P7). Recorded in a Montreal boarding house, Muddy Waters' Goin' Way Back recalls his Chess Folk Singer LP. Piano genius Otis Spann, who sings several songs, makes a rare appearance on downhome acoustic guitar. Sammy Langhorn, Mojo Buford, and Luther Johnson also back Waters' slashing slide and bellowing vocals. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee's Live at the New Penelope Cafe captures a complete 1967 set, with fleet-fingered McGhee nodding to Lonnie Johnson and Blind Boy Fuller. Dave Van Ronk's Live at Sir George Williams University presents an ecumenical mix of Blind Blake, Brecht/Weill, Bob Dylan, and Blind Willie McTell. …

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