Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-01-03


19 Classic Blues Songs From the 1920's: Vol. 9 (Blues Images, 2011) Since 2004 this company has released blues CDs to accompany handsome blues calendars illustrated with old ad, sleeve, and catalog pix. Showcasing the Paramount 78s proprietor John Tefteller collects, those I've heard have been good albeit patchy. This one is better--not perfect, but a surprising country blues and jug band anthology undiminished by eight of the rarities blues collectors dote on and normals yawn at. The three gritty Blind Joel Taggarts are pretty generic, but Lane Hardin's forbearing head voice and Jenny Pope's cutting soprano are as satisfying as anything on the record, adding a freshness even for a duffer like me. Other highlights include two Tampa Red takes on "Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here," with future gospel luminary Georgia Tom Dorsey and vaudeville wise guy Frankie Jaxon; Ora Brown's near-classic "Jinx Blues" and Ida Cox's altogether classic "Fogyism"; Harum Scarum's feet-airing "Come On In (Ain't Nobody Here)"; and a two-sided Blind Blake called "Rope Stretchin' Blues" that equals anything on his best-of. You can buy the CD alone, but at $19.95 I'd spring for the calendar package, which Tefteller warns is going fast. The calendar doubles as liner notes, for one thing. A-

Piano Blues: A Film by Clint Eastwood (Columbia/Legacy, 2003) Branding being a fact of musical life, title listings often cite series overseer Martin Scorsese, who only wishes he had ears like his subcontractor's. The first 16 tracks here are so historically astute--and skip so gracefully from instrumental to occasional vocal, from boogie-woogie to big band--you could almost call them, well, curated. So much of it is absolutely classic that it's kind of a shame that the last four tracks were newly recorded under Eastwood's supervision even though Dr. John co-owns "Big Chief," the Pinetop Perkins-Marcia Ball duet gives the octogenarians and the ladies some, and the other two ain't bad either. This is the record to put on when you feel like some blues but aren't in a guitar mood. "What'd I Say" and "Tipitina" it's hard to hear too many times. The Ellington-Mingus-Roach "Backward Country Boy Blues," which had passed from my mind, is almost as good. A

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