Monday, March 26, 2007


"my heart longed for him, but my foolish brain cried!"

Lonesome Sundown, Gonna Stick To You Baby.
Lightnin' Slim, Rooster Blues.
Lightnin' Hopkins, Fan It.
Jimmy Reed, Take Out Some Insurance.

Some blues for a Monday morning:

First, here are two swamp blues records from Nashville's Excello, both of which were recorded at Jay D. Miller's studio in Crowley, Louisiana, and featured the regulars who had worked there for much of the '50s.

Lonesome Sundown, a contender for having the greatest blues name ever, was born Cornelius Green, and he first got attention as one of Clifton Chenier's guitarists. From '56 on, Sundown recorded a number of tracks for Excello--"Gonna Stick to You Baby" is his best, all bluster and assurance, anchored by Sundown's guitar and seasoned by Lazy Lester's harmonica.

You know the preacher preach the gospel
He didn't jump and shout
I'll be here
until you put me out

"Gonna Stick to You Baby" was recorded in May 1959 and released as Excello 2163, with Miller's usual gang on backup, including Leroy Washington (g), Merton Thibodeaux (p) and Warren Storm (d). On I'm a Mojo Man.

Lightnin' Slim was born Otis Hicks in 1913. He was from St. Francisville, Louisiana, and after the war he started playing bars in Baton Rouge, sometimes working with Slim Harpo. He recorded for Excello for almost a decade, from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s, when he moved to Detroit (where he died of cancer in 1974).

"Rooster Blues" is heavy (Kenneth Semple's drums sound like mortars going off), relentless and sung by Slim with a nice dusty tone. Recorded in September '59 and released as Excello 2169, with much the same backing group as the Lonesome Sundown track. On Rooster Blues/Bell Ringer.

One day in January 1959, the blues scholar Samuel Charters got a hotel room in Houston, set up a microphone and tape recorder, and got Lightnin' Hopkins to perform ten tracks that would later become the Folkways LP The Roots of Lightnin' Hopkins. (The story goes that Hopkins did two or three songs and announced he was done, and so Charters had to tell him what an LP was, and that he needed to do another 25 minutes' worth of material. One can only imagine the look Hopkins gave him.)

Hopkins' brand of electric blues had begun losing favor with black audiences by the late '50s, and so, quite savvily, Hopkins recast himself as a "folk" musician, going acoustic and finding an eager new audience of college students and various musical purists. His transformation worked marvels--at one point in the early '70s, Hopkins played a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. I don't think the gloriously dirty blues "Fan It" was on the set list that night.

Recorded on January 16, 1959; on The Very Best.

Jimmy Reed didn't think much of "Take Out Some Insurance," in great part because he didn't write it, but it's one of his finer recordings, sung wryly by Reed (who at the time was turning up on stage viciously drunk, which in turn was exacerbating his epilepsy); it has the sort of easy groove you could get swallowed up in.

Recorded in Chicago on March 26, 1959, and released a month later as Vee-Jay 314. With Lefty Bates (g), Eddie Taylor (b) and Earl Phillips (d). On Boss Man.

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