Blues Art review of Broadcasting The Blues Compiled by Paul Oliver
This three CD, 77 track set complements Paul Oliver’s recently published book of the same title which contains scripts of Paul’s radio shows over the years. Paul is perhaps the foremost blues scholar, having encountered the music in the 1940s, and his books have certainly withstood the test of time; his ‘Story Of The Blues’ is still the best general introduction to the music, despite being almost forty years old!
Paul was one of the first white critic/ researchers to argue the case for the blues as a tradition in its own right – back in the early 1950s when it was still generally perceived as a precursor of jazz – and how different the music scene might have been without him. He has a knack of juxtaposing material to provide new insights – those who recall the albums that accompanied the series of Studio Vista books will know exactly what I mean – and he does so again here. The Mamprusi tribesmen from West Africa are again represented (check out ‘Savannah Syncopaters’ – Oliver’s of course!), alongside a Louisiana ring shout originally recorded by the Library Of Congress, and the whole collection is set out in sub-divisions illustrating various aspects of the blues – and Paul’s shows. For example, ‘Old Country Stomp’ presents Henry Thomas and Blind Blake (with ‘Dry Bone Shuffle’), ‘Dr. Medicine’ has the Beale Street Sheiks and Jim Jackson, and ‘High Water Everywhere’ includes sides by Mattie Delaney, Lonnie Johnson, and Sleepy John Estes. The thinking behind these choices is outlined in the lavish accompanying booklet, which is a first-class read in itself. Also, Paul has, where relevant, added snippets from his own first person interviews with the likes of Gus Cannon, Will Shade, Henry Townsend, Wade Walton, John Lee Hooker and others – these make for fascinating listening.
All the songs come from Document reissues, but even if you have a complete set of the label’s releases, this is still worth considering. Paul Oliver on the blues is always interesting and always essential. That is certainly the case once again here.
Thanks to Blues Art and Norman Darwen for the review
Click here to buy Broadcasting The Blues
Compiled and Edited by Paul Oliver