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Various Artists – The Rough Guide To The Blues Songsters

Album Review

The curtains drawn back on the music that came before the blues.

Spotting song titles such as Midnight Special, The Spasm or the surreal A Chicken Can Waltz The Gravy Around, you know you’re not in Kansas City Blues territory any more. Most of these recordings from the 1920s and 30s are not in the blues form, nor were their makers full-time blues singers. They stood at a musical crossroads: behind them, slowly receding, the rags, reels, ballads and popular songs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; ahead, the new blacktop highway of the blues. Theirs was the last generation that would travel easily back and forth over that junction. Fortunately they did so in the era of sound recording, leaving us first-rate performances of kinds of African-American music that would otherwise have survived only in folklorists’ text collections or the fading memories of the aged.


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