Friday, July 18, 2008

Various Artists - Jook Joint Blues (JSP, 2007)

For blues fans, the Juke or in this case Jook Joint has taken on the mystical place of a temple, where the Word of the blues is passed down from the musician-priests to the eager supplicants, who contort and speak in tongues on the dance floor. This collection, by the British label JSP, looks at music that would have been right at home in any juke joint in America in the immediate post war period. There are some familiar names here like Lightnin' Slim who is always extorting "Blow your harmonica, son! on every one of his tracks), Jerry McCain, Lazy Lester and Earl Hooker. But most of the collection is make up of relatively unknown but by no means untalented musicians, who like their pre-war predecessors, cut a few 45's and them disappeared into the mists of time. That is part of the charm of the music presented here, and there is a lot of it over the course of four fully maxed out CDs. You'll be listening to track after track of pleasant but unspectacular blues, when out of nowhere, one of the sides will hit you like the proverbial rolling pin upside the head. For me the most interesting previously unknown musician represented here was a raw blues singer and harmonica player named Papa George Lightfoot. There few singles he has on this collection were wonderful, so I'm going to track down the one LP he made later on. Sure the collection probably could have been boiled down to one killer disc of essential tracks, but that would ruin the fun of exploration. The liner notes by British blues scholar Neil Shaven are solid, but scattered in each CD case. This is an interesting collection to spin, and it represents a critical time in the development of the blues. With the war over, and the northern migration in full swing, blues was about to burst out of its southern roots and take Chicago by storm. This box is the sound of the blues evolving from a regional music to a full blown national (and world) treasure.

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