The Classic Years 1927-1940

The Classic Years 1927-1940

by Blind Willie McTellBlind Willie McTell


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There are some box sets that seem like overkill, beyond the pale for all but the very most hardcore fans, and others -- a little more obvious in their justification -- that never achieve much currency beyond the ranks of the serious fans and as easy Christmas ideas for their relatives. And then there are the ones that, based on the sheer credibility of the artists involved -- Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra -- become practically standard-issue for any serious music listener; you expect to find at least one, and more likely two of them on a lot of shelves. The Classic Years 1927-1940 ought to fit into the latter category, despite the fact that Blind Willie McTell never had a hit record in a recording career lasting nearly 30 years -- he also didn't make Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of the twentieth century, even though he could play circles about three-fourths of those who did. Some music and musicians just speak too well for themselves and their genre and style, and in this case all 84 cuts have value, and a lot more value than JSP Records is asking in its retail price. From McTell's earliest session, in October 1927 to his November 1940 session for John Lomax, he is superbly represented here by his voice, guitar, and songs, and unlike many comprehensive compilations of pre-World War II blues, there are no apologies needed for the quality of most of the sources or the resulting tracks. However it happened, JSP has assembled a series of generally superbly clean and bright masters (with some exceptions, especially in the mid-'30s sides, some of which have surface noise) going back to the late '20s, which, in their current digital state, showcase McTell's dazzling finger-picking style on the 12-string guitar. Listeners will swear there's more than one guitarist playing, but there isn't on the early sides, and what he gets out of the one guitar makes it sound almost like a trio, covering rhythm as well as lead parts, but without any feeling of artifice. And when he gets teamed up with fellow blues virtuoso Curley Weaver (who also escaped Rolling Stones' net) in the 1930s, it's a collaboration between two geniuses that can spin your head if you listen closely enough to the playing. Coupled with the tracks on which Ruth Mary Willis sings or shares vocals with McTell, there's more than enough variety here to make this entertaining for 30 minutes or three hours at a sitting. Concerning the 1940 Lomax session masters, they have some moderate noise, but they're so well recorded otherwise and so valuable as musical documents and historical artifacts that the slight distraction can be ignored. These sides went unreleased for decades and slot perfectly into the period between McTell's final commercial recordings as a contemporary country blues artist during the era of the last commercial gasp of acoustic country blues and his re-emergence after World War II as a representative of a now-archaic style of blues. What's more, Lomax got McTell to talk as well as play for his microphone. The annotation is very thorough and the mere fact that this set pulls together all of McTell's various sides for Victor, Columbia, and others makes it essential listening for his fans or admirers of 1930s acoustic blues.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/10/2003
Label: Jsp Records
UPC: 0788065771126
catalogNumber: 7711
Rank: 76452


Disc 1

  1. Writin' Paper Blues
  2. Stole Rider Blues
  3. Mama, 'Tain't Long Fo' Day
  4. Mr. McTell Got the Blues
  5. Mr. McTell Got the Blues
  6. Three Women Blues
  7. Dark Night Blues
  8. Statesboro Blues
  9. Loving Talking Blues
  10. Atlanta Strut
  11. Travelin' Blues
  12. Come on Around to My House Mama
  13. Kind Mama
  14. Teasing Brown
  15. Drive Away Blues
  16. This Is Not the Stove to Brown You Bread
  17. Love Changing Blues
  18. Talkin' to Myself
  19. Razor Ball
  20. Southern Can Is Mine
  21. Broke Down Engine Blues
  22. Stomp Down Rider
  23. Scarey Day Blues

Disc 2

  1. Rough Alley Blues
  2. Experience Blues
  3. Painful Blues
  4. Low Rider's Blues
  5. Georgia Rag
  6. Low Down Blues
  7. Rollin' Mama Blues
  8. Lonesome Day Blues
  9. Mama, Let Me Scoop for You
  10. Searching the Desert for the Blues
  11. Warm It Up to Me
  12. It's Your Time to Worry
  13. It's a Good Little Thing
  14. You Was Born to Die
  15. Lord Have Mercy If You Please
  16. Don't You See How This World Made a Change
  17. Savannah Mama
  18. Broke Down Engine
  19. Broke Down Engine, No. 2
  20. My Baby's Gone
  21. Love-Makin' Mama
  22. Death Room Blues
  23. Death Cell Blues
  24. Lord, Send Me an Angel

Disc 3

  1. B and O Blues, No. 2
  2. B and O Blues, No. 2
  3. Weary Hearted Blues
  4. Bell Street Lightnin'
  5. Southern Can Mama
  6. Runnin' Me Crazy
  7. East St. Louis Blues
  8. Ain't It Grand to Be a Christian
  9. We Got to Meet Death One Day
  10. We Got to Meet Death One Day
  11. Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around
  12. I Got Religion, I'm So Glad
  13. Dying Gambler
  14. God Don't Like It
  15. Bell Street Blues
  16. Let Me Play With Yo' Yo-Yo
  17. Lay Some Flowers on My Grave
  18. Ticket Agent Blues
  19. Cold Winter Day
  20. Your Time to Worry
  21. Cooling Board Blues
  22. Hillbilly Willie's Blues

Disc 4

  1. Just as Well Get Ready, You Got to Die/Climbing High ...
  2. Monologue on Accidents
  3. Boll Weevil
  4. Delia
  5. Drying Crapshooter's Blues
  6. Will Fox
  7. I Got to Cross the River Jordan
  8. Monologue on Old Songs: Old Time Religion/Amen
  9. Amazing Grace
  10. Monologues on: The History of the Blues/Life as Maker of ...
  11. King Edward Blues
  12. Murderer's Home Blues
  13. Kill-It-Kid Rag
  14. Chainey
  15. I Got to Cross the River of Jordan
  16. [Untitled Track]

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