This distorted board tape captures Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and an anonymous band, circa 1980, working a small club date. The playing is wonderful and Gatemouth is at the top of his game, both on guitar and violin. However, the bootleg quality of the sound is so off-putting that one can't imagine listening to this disc more than once. For completists only.– by Cub Koda
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and looming physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. Musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies'". Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 51 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup was an American Delta blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is best known outside blues circles for his songs "That's All Right" (1946), "My Baby Left Me" and "So Glad You're Mine", later covered by Elvis Presley and other artists…
Former radio repairman Elmore James spent a good deal of time re-wiring his amplifiers, giving him a raw, distorted, and urgent sound on electric guitar that, coupled with his killer slide style, made him the Godfather of modern electric guitar, and few gunslingers can match his intensity or powerful, dirty sound (even when armed with a train-load of stomp boxes). This intriguing disc packages late sessions James did for Bobby Robinson's Fire imprint, including fine versions of "Sunnyland Train" and "Standing at the Crossroads," which features James' signature roaring slide guitar sound, a force of nature that will forever be his calling card.
The first major blues and jazz singer on record and one of the most powerful of all time, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of "The Empress of the Blues." Even on her first records in 1923, her passionate voice overcame the primitive recording quality of the day and still communicates easily to today's listeners (which is not true of any other singer from that early period). At a time when the blues were in and most vocalists (particularly vaudevillians) were being dubbed "blues singers," Bessie Smith simply had no competition.
Few blues legends have the presence of mind to write autobiographies. Fortunately, Pleasant Joseph did, spinning fascinating tales of a career in his 1987 tome Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans that spanned more than half a century. Growing up in New Orleans, Pleasant began singing in church before crossing over to the blues. Guitar and ukulele were his first axes. He eventually prioritized the piano instead, playing Crescent City clubs and riverboats.