Monday, March 21, 2011
The Greatest Songsters - Richard 'Rabbit' Brown, Mississippi John Hurt, Hambone Willie Newbern 1927 -1929.
This delightful disc collects the complete recorded work of three unique 1920s blues performers, Richard "Rabbit" Brown, Mississippi John Hurt, and Hambone Willie Newbern, each of whom had a highly individualized style in a genre known for homologous performers. Of these three, Hurt is easily the best known, due in part to his re-discovery in the 1960s with his skills still intact. All 13 of his Okeh sides recorded in 1928 are here, including the lovely "Blue Harvest Blues," and each exhibits his intricate guitar style and soft, gentle voice. Brown recorded five tracks in New Orleans in 1927 for Victor Records, and where Hurt is a fluid and composed performer, Brown is raggedy and halting with a voice that scratches and keens, but he brings a kind of everyman passion to his highly personal songs. "James Alley Blues" is a classic song of desperate frustration, with just a hint of humor (at least we hope it's humor, if not, then this is an absolutely murderous song). Brown's other songs here show equal amounts of odd phrasing and unexpected turns, and while he isn't a great guitarist, he builds his tunes with a kind of accumulative narrative force that makes each a singular performance. Newburn recorded six songs in Atlanta on March 13 and 14, 1929, for Okeh Records, and while his material isn't as immediately striking as Hurt's or Brown's, he shows himself to be a skillful, if unassuming, guitar player, and cuts like "Nobody Knows (What the Good Deacon Does)" are full of sly humor. A lot of early country blues players were, quite frankly, interchangeable, all out there working similar territory. These three, however, were each cut from their own unique cloth.
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