FEATURED ARTIST / S
|'Hi' Henry Brown|
Charley Jordan, vocal, guitar.
With contributions by Peetie Wheatstraw, piano.
Genres: St Louis Blues, Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Between June 1930 and March 1931, Charley Jordan had recorded for Vocalion, but in September 1931 he cut four titles for Victor, accompanied, as had become the norm, by his friend Peetie Wheatstraw on piano. These were fine performances, but the Depression was biting hard; sometime in 1933, probably around March, Victor noted the sales figures for their 23000 series releases. Jordan was in exceptional form on guitar, as may be heard on all his titles at this two day session, but particularly perhaps on Honey Sucker Blues and Hell Bound Boy Blues, which also features one of Peetie Wheatstraw's finest accompaniments. If he was outstanding accompanying himself, however, Jordan was truly sensational in guitar duet with "Hi" Henry Brown, whose nickname was presumably adopted to distinguish him from the celebrated St. Louis piano player whose name he shared. Jordan is particularly inspired on Titanic Blues; to his usual rhythmic freedom, even more remarkable than when he was accompanying himself, he adds a near three octave playing range, and extremely forceful picking.
The Depression kept Jordan away from the studios for two years; he cut two songs for Vocalion in March 1934, but thereafter he alternated between ARC and Decca for the remainder of his recording career. Later in 1934, he was recording for Decca, accompanied on two titles by an unusual line-up of clarinet, violin and traps, plus his own guitar, a pianist, and (on one title) saxophone. The clarinettist may be Arnett Nelson, though I doubt it, and Bill Lowry has been suggested as the violinist.
Lost Airship Blues is a startling title, which masks the updating of an old line, while Rolling Moon Blues is even more surprising in its folk-style use of association and contrast to unify seemingly random verses, quite unlike Jordan's usual carefully worked, thematic lyrics. More typical were the two songs where the wind and fiddle players dropped out: a fourth and last version of Keep It Clean, on which Jordan refers to "Kokomo", who has been taken to be Kokomo Arnold, and the fine Depression piece Tight Time Blues, where Peetie Wheatstraw is surely the pianist. "Tight Time Blues" was still highly topical, but the New Deal was beginning to have an effect on the economy, and on black peoples' purchasing power; Charlie Jordan's recording career was to continue for another three years, as may be heard on DOCD-5099, and he continued to develop his music and to explore new areas of the blues.