Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BUKKA WHITE "The Complete Bukka White 1937-1940"

BUKKA WHITE "The Complete Bukka White 1937-1940": Using the simplest melodies as his canvas, Delta bluesman Bukka White painted vivid pictures of his own life in the rural South, punctuating his words with a highly percussive steel-guitar attack. Among his subjects: trains, booze, sex, prison, and death. After shooting an old Mississippi rival during a roadside showdown, White had allegedly jumped bail to record his first two songs in 1937. The bawdy "Shake 'Em On Down" was a hit, but White spent two years in prison for his indiscretion. When White returned to Chicago in 1940 to record again, producer Lester Melrose rejected his roster of cover tunes, giving him two days to come up with his own material. Under the gun, White created the 10 autobiographical gems that round out this collection. --Marc Greilsamer, Blues Review
If you are looking to identify one Bukka White CD to own, this is the one, IMHO. He was a legendary slide guitar stylist with an ability to compose great blues songs for his style. He was a notable singer. This recording captures him in peak form, and, in addition, represents one of the last important country blues recording sessions to have taken place before WWII.
By the early 40's, musical tastes were changing. Electric guitars, big bands, pre-bebop, etc. were all hitting. There was a huge exodus of southerners from the rural south to northern cities, and the country blues was out of fashion as a musical form.
To his credit, Booker, when presented with this opportunity to record, stuck to what he did best and did not get trendy. The result was a legendary country blues session, and this CD documents that. Every song on this recording sounds great, & the sound quality is pretty good to boot (compared to other early blues recordings). The thing that always gets me is the rhythmic creativity. Even though this was an old time country blues recording, Mr. White was a true funkster, & his rhythm sense still sounds contemporary & exciting. (Amazon)
The artist's face fills the front cover, with a look of quiet and desperation. Sure, he looks like he has the blues, but furthermore, he seems to be secretly begging the listener not to judge this release as his best. That's because the recordings included here date from the late '30s and early '40s, while the photography of the artist is all from the '60s, when he was rediscovered and began performing again for the blues and folk revival audience. A man of pride, White surely wanted to feel that he was doing his best work artistically in the present, not back in his younger days. Records certainly sounded better in the '60s than they did decades earlier, and some blues fans will prefer the later recordings of this artist just because of the lack of surface noise, as well as the more fully developed recorded sound of his characteristic national steel resophonic guitar. White tried very hard in his later years and made some excellent new recordings, but he was often at a loss to fulfill expectations, especially in front of live audiences. He didn't seem to have enough different variations on his song material, went off on too many weird tangents, and sometimes seemed to be in a rotten mood, which certainly seems to be a strange thing for anyone to complain about when it comes to the blues genre. Out of sympathy for this elder statesman of the Delta blues, several of whose songs provide a textbook example of the style, one wants to pick a later recording as his best, but too many chips fall on the side of these old Vocalion sides, which, despite some surface mess, have been remastered beautifully. The tracks in which White is accompanied by Washboard Sam are really fantastic, representing some of the best country blues one can find, rhythmically snappy and melodically clear. In terms of the musical styles that White employed, they are all here: The basis for every single song he ever recorded, if not the song itself, is included among these 14 tracks. "Where Can I Change My Clothes," one of the best songs about prison, is included along with White's unique version of "Parchman Farm." The former song was one he re-recorded in the '60s, releasing it under the latter title: Neither song is the same as the "Parchman Farm" blues standard that was later satirized by Mose Allison and obliterated by Blue Cheer. One of the great things about White's style is his vocals. His pronunciation and accent are fascinating. Take the way he pronounces the title of "district attorney" in the song of the same name. As well, he could be the only blues singer to deliver the following couplet and make it sound like it actually rhymes: "Doctor, put that temperature gauge under my tongue/And tell me, all I need is my baby's lovin' arms." The use of photographs of White as an old man to accompany music he recorded when he was young may not be completely inappropriate, but it is a bit misleading. The lengthy liner notes are superb. (by Eugene Chadbourne, Allmusic)

trax:
01 Pinebluff, Arkansas 02 Shake 'Em On Down 03 Black Train Blues 04 Strange Place Blues 05 When Can I Change My Clothes? 06 Sleepy Man Blues 07 Parchman Farm Blues 08 Good Gin Blues 09 High Fever Blues 10 District Attorney Blues 11 Fixin' To Die Blues 12 Aberdeen Mississippi Blues 13 Bukka's Jitterbug Swing 14 Special Streamline
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