FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Texas Alexander (believed to be ) Vocalist|
Edwin “Buster” Pickens, vocal, piano.
Genres: Texas blues, Blues piano.
12 page informative booklet notes by Jeff Harris.
From the CDs booklet notes.
Blind Lemon Jefferson famously sang that “the blues came to Texas loping like a mule” but a better metaphor might have been the freight train. It was the railroad that linked the far flung Texas towns where the bluesman, particularly the piano players, plied their trade. In one of the greatest train blues, "Railroadin' Some", Henry Thomas, who made a living singing along the Texas and Pacific and Katy lines, recites a litany of rail stops including Rockwall, Greenville, Denison, Grand Saline, Silver Lake, Mineola, Tyler, Longview, Jefferson, Marshall, Little Sandy, and his birthplace, Big Sandy. Similarly the railroad is the recurring theme in the blues of Buster Pickens in such songs as “Santa Fe Train”, “Rock Island Blues”, “She Caught the L. & N.”, “Mountain Jack” and “Santa Fe Blues.” ”This is to be expected”, Paul Oliver wrote, “for the life of the barrelhouse pianist in the vast state of Texas is strongly influenced by the railroads which link the centers.” As Pickens confirms: “I traveled by freight trains. I rode freight trains practically all over the country. I flag rides and so forth. I might go to Tombell an' I might stay there until things dull down. Then I hear of another camp where it's booming. I leave there and probably go to Raccoon Bend-oil field. Then I leave there and probably go to Longview...Kilgore...Silsbee.., just wherever it was booming. …These other piano players-Son Becky, Conish Burks, Black Boy Shine, Andy Boy, and all these men-they went out different routes-hardly ever paired up. Each lookin' for his own bread. ...Up and down the Santa Fe tracks in those days was known as the barrelhouse joints. These places was located in the area where the mill was in, and you played all night long in those days. They danced all night long. And the blues was all they wanted; they didn't want anything else.”
The sessions that comprise this collection were organized by Paul Oliver for the Blues Research and Recording Project with the recording done by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz. In the summer of 1960 Oliver came to the United States with the aid of a State Department grant and BBC field recorder with the idea, as he writes of “putting on tape the conversation and music of blues artists in the country and the cities, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. Some of the blues singers were famous, or had been, whilst others were unknown and destined to remain so.” As Oliver's journey progressed west he teamed up with Strachwitz and McCormick who had been roaming around Texas looking for blues singers. The recording of Buster Pickens was a result of this collaboration.
Pickens lone album, for Heritage (HLP 1008), the self-titled Buster Pickens, was recorded over several sessions in 1960 and 1961 and released in 1962, subsequently reissued in 1977 on the Flyright label as Back Door Blues and now appears on CD for the first time here. It was Oliver who wrote the liner notes and interviewed Pickens, some of which has been transcribed by Oliver in his groundbreaking Conversation With The Blues. Two other songs allegedly by Pickens, (one is more likely a recording Texas Alexander) again reissued on CD for the first time, were recorded in 1959 and come from the album The Unexpurgated Folk Songs of Men collected by Mack McCormick.