Saturday, April 03, 2004

Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues (JSP, 2004)

Big Joe Williams was a rambling musician, one of many that came and went all over the country during the depression years, riding the rails, hoboing and doing all of the other things blues fans like to romanticize about. By the time Big Joe finally got to record starting in the late thirties, he had already developed a unique style of guitar playing (with his famous nine string guitar) and had developed a repertoire filled with blues, work songs and hillbilly music.

The first two discs here feature Big Joe in various settings from 1937 to 1948, running through a large number of tunes. Of particular interest are the songs where he's joined by another guitarist and fiddle player - hearing Big Joe's standard "Baby Please Don't Go" in this setting is very interesting and insightful into the different kinds of music being played by blues musicians in this period.

The remainder of the 5 disc set is filled out with music from two somewhat lesser known by equally powerful bluesmen, Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway. Rounding out the set is some excellent music from David “Honeyboy” Edwards, a contemporary of the other three who is still making music today. Incidentally, Edwards’ biography The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’ has some fascinating commentary about blues musicians and the blues community of this period.

For $17.99 + tax and shipping, 5 nearly full discs of music is a pretty good bargain. Things can get a little repetitious at times, but by taking the music in small doses or making playlists, you are able to break the music up into more digestible portions. If you’re a fan of acoustic blues, it’s certainly a wise investment of time and money.

Rating: 8

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