FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks)|
Barbecue Bob (Robert Hicks), vocal, twelve-string guitar
Nellie Florence, vocal; accompanied by Barbecue Bob, twelve-string guitar (two tracks)
Genre: Country blues from Atlanta, Georgia.
Informative booklet notes written by Chris Smith.
Think of the "rural blues" or "country blues" from Atlanta in the late 1920s and it is more than likely that the sound of the iconic twelve-string guitar comes to mind. One of the undisputable "Kings of the twelve-string" from the Atlanta area was Blind McTell (see Documents BDCD-6001, BDCD-6014 and the triple CD; DOCD-5677), yet, if there was such a thing as the guitar sound of Atlanta at the time, it was that of Robert Hicks, better known as Barbecue Bob and his brother Charlie also known as Laughing Charlie (see Document BDCD-6027).
Though Bob's guitar technique didn't have the same complexities and range as that of Willie Mctell, it was powerful, with the use of a hard, slapping, of the lower bass string, contrasted with the high ringing notes, produced, almost exclusively, on the high treble string. Usually, his accompaniments were delivered with a relentless, pulsating rhythm and this simple but winning formula was topped off by his dark, rich, captivating voice.
By the time that he recorded Mississippi Low-Levee Blues, Barbecue Bob was a star among the record buying public, selling, on average, 6,000 copies per record for Columbia's "race series". His songs, sometimes written by others, often written by himself, cover the highs and lows of life. Dollar Down is almost a documentary account of the perils of easy credit; Freeze To Me Mama is a love song for grownups; and Trouble Done Bore Me Down belies its titles with its witty observations:
You got a large family, you don't need no more,
The Doc drop by, you get four or five more.
As well as these blues and others like the fierce California Blues and Yo Yo Blues based on Curley Weaver's 'No No Blues' (see Document DOCD-5110), by April 1929 Bob was adding a new style of music, one that took account of the craze for the sexually allusive "hokum blues" that had been sparked off by Tampa Red & Georgia Tom with 'It's tight Like That' (see Document DOCD-5073). It Just Won't Hay takes close notice of the record though it is has an unmistakable Bob treatment. Even more so is Honey Your (sic) Going Too Fast. As if to try and confirm that he was the master of new music crazes, not their servant, on Red Hot Mama, Papa's going To Cool You Off, he takes crazy liberties with the structure of this nominally 16 bar composition (but try to count them!) song.
By the end of 1929 the circumstances that lead to Bad Time Blues was under way. Nevertheless, Columbia were to persist with recording Barbecue Bob, for he had proven to be a good seller in economically happier times and his last recordings, made all through 1930, can be heard on Document's third volume of this great blues artist's work on Document DOCD-5048.