Thursday, December 22, 2005

Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots (Atlantic, 1959) Ah... the Joy of Mingus. I enjoy all of the great man's work, but have special attachment to the bluesy gospel music he did throughout his career. This is one of the most soulful records of his career, kicking off with the incredibly powerful "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" in which the horns are driven into a frenzy by Mingus' protean bass playing and vocal shouts of encouragement, which recall a holy-roller gospel church. "Cryin' Blues" and "Moanin'" pile on the earth down-home feel with Jackie McLean and Booker Ervin each getting a chance for ripe saxophone statements. Charles Mingus knew the blues on the most intimate level and this album distills this hard won knowledge into a masterpiece of American Music.

Various Artists - Blues With a Message (Arhoolie, 2005) The blues has always been more than stories of cheatin' women and lyin' men. From Congo Square on to the present day, the idiom of the blues has been used to pass down oral history and comment ton the news of the day. This collection brings together 18 of such songs from bluesman known and obscure. Of particular interest is hearing both Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb sing different versions of the infamous "Tom Moore's Farm" and also hear a great version of the song of that steel driving man "John Henry." Willie Eason's "Why I Like Roosevelt" and "Prisoner's Talking Blues" and one-man-band Dr. Ross' "Little Soldier Boy" recount the horrors of war. This fascinating collection was named best blues album of 2005 by the British magazine Mojo and certainly deserves consideration by anyone who enjoys deep, hard-hitting blues.

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