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These Blues are Doggin' Me
All By Myself
Big Bill Blues
These Blues Are Doggin' Me
Big Bill's Boogie
Bull Cow Blues
Friendless Blues
Good Jelly
How You Want It Done?
I Can't Be Satisfied
I Feel So Good
I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town
John Henry
Just A Dream On My Mind No.2
Keep Your Hands Off Her
Key To The Highway
Long Tall Mama
Mississippi River Blues
See See Rider
Southern Flood Blues
Summertime Blues
The Sun Gonna Shine In My Door Someday
Tell Me Baby
Too Too Train Blues
Trouble In Mind
Wee Wee Hours Blues
When I Been Drinking
Worrying You Off My Mind No.1.
Big Bill Broonzy (guitar)
rec. 1930-51
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5637 [77:27]


Digby Fairweather’s sleeve-note makes the astute point that Broonzy’s was a more versatile and stylistically multifarious career than it might once have seemed. His post-War peregrinations disposed the wistful to think him a survivor of the Mississippi fields (which is how he was once actually introduced) whereas this disc shows he was anything but a primitive or archaic survivor.

Living Era’s selection from among his many recordings therefore gives us his well known sides with frequent collaborator Black Bob before moving on to the 1940s discs with his Chicago Five. The 1930s tracks are prototypical Broonzy, whilst the 1940s jump and boogie recordings are less familiar perhaps to those unaware of the trajectory of his career. We also have an envoi of two live concert performances from Germany in 1951. These are the more reminiscent of his magnificent "Last Testament" sessions for Verve.

The 1930-41 solo and duo sides comprise a fine selection of risqué numbers, standards, modified country blues, rural blues and the like. His musical relationship with Black Bob produced its fair share of masterpieces. We can also hear Broonzy’s simple but effective violin playing on See See Rider, a song long associated with Ma Rainey. Things are somewhat less impressive when he’s joined by pianists Joshua Altheimer and Horace Malcolm but pick up again immeasurably when Memphis Slim joins him in July 1941. That year also saw collaborations with Blind John Davis (I Feel So Good) and Jazz Gillum both happily documented here.

His swing and jump influenced band starred Punch Miller, scion of the New Orleans trumpet hierarchy, Buster Bennett on alto, Memphis Slim and drummer John Riley. The whole ensemble is underpinned by Slim’s galvanic pianism, and Miller plays some gorgeous lower register work. Bennett is serviceable and extrovert. When Broonzy recorded with another horn led band the results were generic if not quite desultory. Sax Mallard and Bill Casimir produced faceless playing and the boogie craze rather swallowed up Broonzy’s vivacity.

The copies used are in an excellent state of preservation and have been treated most sympathetically by the Living Era team. This fine disc traces the time line of Broonzy’s career with acumen and discrimination.

Jonathan Woolf


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