Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Blind Blake: Ragtime Guitar's Foremost Fingerpicker [Yazoo, 1984]
Blake shows no genre loyalties on these 28 (out of 79) 1926-32 "race" sides. He's an entertainer who's always willing to please, and though his blues are sad and sometimes touching, they never twist you, words and vocals are mostly serviceable, and the instrumental virtuosity treasured by blues scholars is technical rather than expressive. Of course, one reason his rather monotonous tunes go down so pleasantly at this late date is the deft rhythms he plays against them. The other is his willingness to please; such mild gimmicks as guest vocalist, patter lyrics, and novelty expostulations may have been record business cliches at the time, but they sure sound fresh now. A-