Review of Big Maceo Volumes 1 & 2
Vol. 2 (1945-1950): Big City Blues
The ill-fated Big Maeeo Meriweather was one of the best and most influential blues pianists ever recorded and, along with his legendary pals Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red, had a central role in creating what became known as the Chicago blues sound in the 1940s. Springing from the rural, untamed styles of Leroy Car, Peetie Wheatstraw and Whistling Alex Moore, Meriweather developed a more urban, progressive approach and served as a mentor to future stars such as Otis Spann, Eddie Boyd and Johnnie Jones.
These discs present Maceo’s entire recorded output (he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1946 and died in 1953), comprising 44 tracks of powerful self-penned blues, boogies and stomps - usually with the nu aneed, wonderfully understated guitar play ing of Tampa “It’s Tight Like That” Red for accompaniment. Classic sides like his big hit “Worried Life Blues,” “Tuff Luck Blues,” “Chicago Breakdown,” “Big Road Blues” and “County Jail Blues” abound.
However, Maeeo’s piano is absent on most of the second disc. While recuperating from the stroke, his booming voice was pungent as ever but he had to be replaced on the bench by Boyd (for a final Victor session), Jones (on four sides for Specialty) and, at a final studio date for Fortune by James Watkins’ right hand only. By 1950, Maeeo could play an adequate left hand buthe never-recorded again. All three substitutes perform surprisingly well, uncannily channeling Maceo’s rousing, exclamatory sound. A downbeat “I Lost My Little Woman,” the supernal, emotionally direct “One Sunday Morning” and a haunting reprise of his signa ture “Worried Life Blues” are particularly grip ping.
Gillian George’s separate sets of extensive liners, based on recent interviews with Maceo survivors, clear up many misconceptions and inaccuracies concerning his life and times. Flawless sound.
Thanks to GvonT and Sing Out! for this review
Click here to buy Big Maceo Volume 1
Click here to buy Big Maceo Volume 2