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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Vol 2

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Vol 2

Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Couchman, Texas, in 1897 and died in Chicago early in 1930. In the period between 1925 and his death he recorded one hundred sides of which ninety-three were eventually issued. Most of his output was on the Paramount label, which is unfortunate for record collectors owning to the incredibly bad sound quality of that company's pressings. Jefferson was signed to Paramount by Mayo Williams in late 1925, but he apparently broke his contract on the 14-15th March, 1927 when he recorded seven sides for Okeh. Sadly, only two of these were released. The 'Black Snake Moan' he did at one of these sessions is available on a Folkways R.B.F. anthology and is far superior in sound quality to any of his Paramount issues.

The quality of remastering and pressing on this second volume is quite remarkable in that all the lyrics can be clearly heard, vocal and instrumental tone is relatively full-bodied, and scratch has been well suppressed. All the selections are typical Blind Lemon and unless you're already hooked they'll probably sound like everything else of his you've heard. In fact it could be difficult to distinguish one track from the next.

Jefferson's voice is high and remarkably clear for a rural artist of the period, and is not tonally unlike Lead belly's In interviews with John Lomax for the Library of Congress, Lead belly made much of his early associations with Blind Lemon. The guitar style is loose and mainly takes the form of jagged, highly syncopated obligatoes played against his realtively unornamented vocals, it is almost as though he was playing guitar soloes with vocal accompaniment. Probably it is the incredible rhythmic complexity of the interplay between voice and guitar which is most fascinating about a Blind Lemon performance. This complexity could also explain why he is so little imitated.

Keen old-time blues collectors will need no incentive to get hold of this second Blind Lemon Jefferson album to be released here, but newcomers to music of this vintage may find the antiquated sound hard to take. Although the quality is relatively good, this album does not compare favourably with, for instance, the Robert Johnson albums also released in N.Z. by Polygram. However, despite the initial apparent sameness of most Jefferson recordings there are subtle and fascinating variations which (although not easy to catch because of the low-fidelity sound, residual surface noise, and scratch) will repay careful listening.

Tracks are (with recording date):
Jack O'Diamonds April, 1926
Chock House Blues April, 1926
Shuckin' Sugar Blues June, 1926
Bad Luck Blues June, 1926
Broke and Hungry June, 1926
Rising High Water Blues June, 1927
Teddy Bear Blues June, 1927
Lonesome House Blues June, 1927
Sunshine Special June, 1927
Mean Jumper Blues February, 1928
Balky Mule Blues February, 1928
Change My Luck Blues February, 1928

(All remasters from original Paramount 78's)