FEATURED ARTIST / S
DOCD-5024 Blind Blake Vol 1 (July 1926 to October 1927)
Blind Blake, vocal, guitar.
Includes: Leola B. Wilson, vocal; Jimmy Blythe, piano; And others…
Genres: Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Ragtime Guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Alan Balfour.
Over a six year period Blind Blake recorded eighty-four titles together with numerous as “house” guitarist to artists like Papa Charlie Jackson, Ma Rainey, Leola B. Wilson and Irene Scruggs. This compilation covers his formative years and it has been surmised that initially he made three visits between August and December 1926 to Paramount’s Chicago studio. Blake’s first record West Coast Blues / Early Morning Blues was released on October 2 1926, the former title being basically a dance piece with Blake’s jaunty voice exhorting his listeners to “do that old country rock”, underpinning the spoken lyric with sophisticated, ragtime guitar accompaniment, taking the opportunity to incorporate a popular advertising slogan of the day (“Good to the last drop, just like Maxwell House coffee”). Early Morning Blues, on the other hand, was lyrically far more menacing, his warm, wistful and insinuating voice, at times reminiscent of Lonnie Johnson’s approach, giving lie to the seriousness of the subject (“When you see me sleeping, baby don’t you think I’m drunk, I got one eye on my pistol, the other one on your trunk”).
Blake’s role as accompanist to Leola B. Wilson, an artist who sang on the vaudeville circuit, displays his ability to use double and stop time phrases, as well as managing to copy her vocal range on Down The Country Blues, a number inspired by a Bessie Smith song. The instrumental, Buck Town Dance, with kazoo playing from Dad Nelson, was probably the model for the piece so often recorded by John Hurt and Gary Davis during the 1960s while Dry Bone Shuffle and That Will Never Happen No More have noticeable echoes of minstrel and white influence. As both were recorded as part of a hillbilly session by the Kentucky Thorobreds perhaps Paramount were hoping to sell Blake to both markets. Blind Blake’s true guitar genius is evinced with Sea Board Stomp (perhaps the basis for some of Big Bill Broonzy’s “stomps”) where, not satisfied with emulating instruments like cornet, saxophone and trombone, he also treats his audience to a lesson in the syncopations of Dixieland Jazz.