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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Sonny, Brownie & Chris

Lake LACD 278



1. Washington and Lee Swing
2. Georgia Cakewalk
3. I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair
4. Big House Blues
5. Sing On
6. Midnight Special
7. Climbing on Top of the Hill
8. Custard Pie
9. Betty and Dupree
10. This Little Light Of Mine
11. Southern Train
12. Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses
13. John Henry
14. Key to the Highway
15. If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again
16. No Worries on my Mind
17. Glory
18. Do Lord
19. If I Ever Cease To Love
20. Bluebells Goodbye
21. When You and I Were Young Maggie
22. Just a Closer Walk with Thee
23. Runnin' Wild

Chris Barber - Trombone, bass (tracks 1-5, 8-10, 15-23)
Sonny Terry - Harmonica, vocals (tracks 6-17)
Brownie McGhee - Vocals, guitar (tracks 6-17)
Pat Halcox - Trumpet (tracks 1-5, 9-10, 15-23)
Monty Sunshine - Clarinet (tracks 1-5, 8, 9-10, 16-23)
Eddie Smith - Banjo (tracks 1-5, 9-10, 14, 16-23)
Dick Smith = Bass (tracks 1-5, 9-10, 16-23)
Graham Burbidge - Drums (tracks 1-5, 9-10, 16-23)

Even before British groups like the Rolling Stones were imitating American blues performers, Chris Barber was paying out of his own pocket for blues artists to tour Europe, so that we could hear the real thing. Chris brought over such stars as Big Bill Broonzy, Otis Spann and Muddy Waters. In 1958 he financed a tour with the duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Their visit resulted in a 10-inch LP which only lasted for about 20 minutes. Lake Records' supremo Paul Adams has filled out that material with previously unissued recordings made by the duo or by Barber's band.

The result is a fascinating mix of music which is timeless - in the sense that, if you didn't know when it was recorded, you might find it hard to put a date to it. Of course, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee perform songs whose origin is lost in the mists of time (hence the number of tunes here that are credited to "Trad"). By contrast, Chris Barber has always been open-minded about the type of music he plays, and his repertoire includes a piece from a Broadway musical (I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair). Yet his band fits in well with Terry and McGhee's blues, since Barber has always had a liking for that idiom, even changing his group's name in later years to the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band. This side of his interests is well displayed in the band's version of Duke Ellington's Big House Blues.

The tracks by Barber's band alone are good examples of the "trad jazz" which was flowering in the late fifties. Halcox, Sunshine and Barber all contribute enjoyable solos. The band also joins in with Terry & McGhee on several tracks, building up quite a head of steam in This Little Light of Mine.

The duets between the two visiting Americans encapsulate the feeling of the blues, with extra touches of folk, country and gospel music. I particularly like the way that Sonny's harmonica captures the sound and rhythm of a locomotive on Southern Train.

Paul Adams's sleeve-note apologises for the echoing sound on some tracks, and it is almost cavernous in Key to the Highway, although it is less noticeable elsewhere. The only other slight fault is the occasional out-of-tune vocals from Brownie McGhee, especially on Glory. But these glitches are rendered insignificant by the general exhilaration of all the music on this well-filled CD, lasting almost 70 minutes.

Tony Augarde 

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