Josh White, who became famous in the 1940s as an accessible and highly intelligent folk singer, began his career as a blues-oriented vocalist and guitarist. Vol. 1 of his complete early recordings starts with a couple instrumental jams from 1929 with the Carver Boys (a quartet consisting of harmonica and three guitars). The remainder of this CD is from 1932-1933, with White heard on some easy-to-take religious songs and as a blues performer. These 24 recordings are all solo numbers other than two selections that have an unknown pianist added. White's voice is strong, and his guitar playing is quite fluent. Among the better numbers are "Black and Evil Blues," "Things About Coming My Way," "Double Crossing Woman," and "Lay Some Flowers on My Grave." This set is particularly recommended to blues collectors who were not aware of Josh White's musical beginnings.
The second of three Josh White CDs that document the folk singer's early period features him both as a gospel performer (known as "The Singing Christian") and as a blues singer (billed as "Pinewood Tom"). White's guitar playing was quite fluent during this period and he sounds quite authentic in these different idioms. The first two sessions feature him solo and then other selections have Walter Roland, Leroy Carr or Clarence Williams on piano, with two songs adding Scrapper Blackwell on second guitar. Among the better selections are "Welfare Blues," "I Believe I'll Make a Change," "Evil Man Blues," "Black Gal," "Milk Cow Blues" and "Homeless and Hungry Blues."
The third of three Document CDs that cover Josh White's early years has 16 selections from 1935-1936 and eight from 1940. In between those periods, White suffered a serious injury to a hand that forced him out of music temporarily. The earlier numbers feature him either as "The Singing Christian" or as a blues singer under the name of "Pinewood Tom." Those duets (with either pianist Walter Roland or guitarist Buddy Moss) are excellent including such numbers as "Jet Black Woman," "Got a Key to the Kingdom" and "No More Ball and Chain." The later eight numbers have White accompanied by bassist Wilson Meyers and, on "Careless Love" and "Milk Cow Blues," the great clarinetist Sidney Bechet. Listeners who think of Josh White as primarily an urban folk singer, will find these performances, and those are the preceding two Document CDs, to be quite intriguing.
Dirty: I didn't find reviews online for the three last albums of this collection... But believe me: They're good!
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