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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 2 4 March 1970

Record Reviews

Record Reviews

Sonny Boy Williamson The Real Folk Blues

The Real Folk Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson, real name Willie or Rice Miller, was born in Glendora, Mississippi about 1901 and died in Helena, Arkansas on May 25, 1965. Although he only started recording under his own name in 1951 he claims to be the original Sonny Boy, as opposed to John Lee Williamson. This claim he carried to his grave but as to who was the original doesn't really matter now—what does matter is that they both left some very good blues recordings behind.

This is the fourth Chess album made by Sonny Boy and the second to be released here, and it would probably be the best, by a slight edge, over the other Chess album More of the Real Folk Blues.

The music on this album was recorded around 1963, the same period as the More Of album. Collectors with that record will have an idea what to expect. Listen to his harp work on the slow numbers—he has probably the most distinctive style of all the harp players, with the possible exception of Little Walter. The usual slight irony of his lyrics is also in evidence. This was the period when Chess was probably the biggest Chicago blues label and they made some very good records. It would have been just after these sessions that Sonny Boy went to Europe with one of the American Folk Blues Festivals. He made recordings in Europe but never recorded for Chess again.

His absolute control over the harp is amazing, particularly on Checkin' Up On My Baby, Mr Downchild, Too Young To Die, and Bring It On Home To Me, which are the outstanding tracks on this set. Sonny Boy's fusion of instrument and vocal is only part of the pathos and cunning skill of this artist — one of the most colorful and memorable artists in blues history.

Take a listen to this album—especially if you like Chicago blues—Sonny Boy Williamson—or simply good old Rhythm and Blues.

The Immortal Blind Lemon Jefferson.

At one time Blind Lemon Jefferson was the best known of the rural blues singers. Then, with interest in blues music increasing, he fell out of favour for some unknown reason and was sadly overlooked in the reissue programme. This omission has been made good in recent years by the issuing overseas of at least Four albums. One of these—and it's the best in my opinion—has been released here in New Zealand.

An objective assessment of blues would have to concede that Blind Lemon was amone the greatest ten singers and his advanced guitar work would rank him even higher in some opinions. He was very influential, he stands as an epitome of Texas bluesmen and his lyrical inventiveness if rivalled by few others.

His intricate guitar technique complements his unstrained voice to perfection—especially listen to Hangman's Blues on this album which is one of the outstanding tracks. Although this technique was complex it never seems to be decorative or unnecessary but provides an integral part of his style.

Blind Lemon was a great influence on the Texas style', if such a style exists, of such singers as Lightnin' Hopkins and Huddie Lead better even on T-Bone Walker who was once his "lead boy" as was Josh White.

Blind Lemon Jefferson died in 1930; his frozen body was found one morning after a particularly severe snow storm and his plea of See That My Grave Is Kept Clean has been fulfilled in recent years by the efforts of blues lovers in America, with the assistance of Alan Lomax. The sound quality of this LP is quite the best I have heard considering the fact that the original pressings were the product of the Paramount Record Company, who were notorious for the dubious quality of their products, especially the excessive surface noise. The recording on this album—made from 78's recorded in the late 20's—must have been made from either exceptionally clear masters or else in reprocessing 'cleaning up' has been achieved without affecting the original sound.

I strongly recommend this album as essential to all blues lovers and would like to add that if this LP sells well there could be a second volume released that is almost as good.