Sunday, 5 October 2008

"The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival" and "Memphis Hot Shots" - 1968 and 1969 Rare BLUE HORIZON LPs Reissued on 2CD Set in 2006

“Baby Please Don’t Go…How Many Times I Have Begged Them That…But They Go Anyway!” – BUKKA WHITE

This 2CD 5 June 2006 release (pictured at the top) is based around two rare and pricey albums issued in 1968 and 1969 by the cult BLUE HORIZON label in the UK. Here’s how it’s broken down…

Disc 1 (50:21 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the Various Artists live album “The 1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival” issued in the UK in September 1968 on Blue Horizon Records S 7-63210 (pictured above)
It was recorded live at The Municipal Shell, Overton Park, Memphis Tennessee on Saturday 20 July 1968.
Tracks 1 and 2 are NATHAN BEAUREGARD on Vocal & Guitar
Tracks 3 and 4 are BUKKA WHITE on Vocal & Guitar accompanied by JIM CROSTHWAIT on Washboard
Tracks 5 is FURRY LEWIS on Vocal and Guitar
Tracks 6 and 7 are REV. ROBERT WILKINS on Vocal & Guitar accompanied by DOUGLAS WILKINS on Vocals, Cymbals & Tambourine with JOHN WILKINS on Bass
Tracks 8 and 9 are JOE CALLICOTT on Vocal and Guitar
Track 10 is BUKKA WHITE on Vocal & Guitar accompanied by JIM CROSTHWAIT on Washboard

Disc 2 (51:36 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 11 are the studio album “Memphis Hot Shots” by BUKKA WHITE issued 1969 on Blue Horizon Records S 7-63229 in the UK (centre picture)
Tracks 12 and 13 are “Drifting Blues (Master Version Without Reverb)” and “Old Man Tom (Complete Master Version Without Reverb)” by BUKKA WHITE which were originally released on the album “Stars Of The 1969-1970 Memphis Country Blues Festival” on Sire Records SES 97015 in the USA only

The 20-page booklet has a fantastically informational essay on the USA date and later album sessions by label boss MIKE VERNON, there’s a picture of the cool 60ts concert poster, snaps of both the rare album sleeves, black & white photos of NATHAN BEAUREGARD, FURRY LEWIS, JOE CALLICOTT and REV. ROBERT WILKINS (pictured below from left to right) and a few of the great man himself BUKKA WHITE – all of it with the usual track-by-track session details and classy outer card wrap. The original master tapes have been digitally remastered by DUNCAN COWELL at Sound Mastering and considering the live and loose nature of the recordings, the quality of the sound is fabulously clean and clear. The studio album sounds SUPERB – muscular and live in your living room.

Disc 1 has the enthusiastic American audience regaled by jokes and banter before each tune – some good, some bad – some of it even incomprehensible! But none of it takes away from the excellence of what’s then played. As the crowd is very quiet and respectful during playing, it gives many of the performances an eerie kind of acoustic blues power. NATHAN BEAUREGARD, JOE CALLICOTT and the gospel sincerity of REV. WILKINS and his brothers are all impressive - while FURRY LEWIS almost steals the show with just one song. It’s lovely to hear their personalities come through on these recordings – upbeat – enjoying it - glad to be in front of an appreciative audience.

The HUGE sound of the studio album “Memphis Hot Shots” on CD2 make for a perfect compliment to the mostly acoustic nature of CD1. The mysterious HARMONICA BOY wails in the background on harp on almost every tune (we never do quite find out who he is), TREVOR KOEHIER is on piano, BILL BARTH on Guitar, ANCHOR on String Bass (another mysterious pseudonym) with JIM CROSTHWAIT on Washboard and JOE GRAY on Drums. BUKKA WHITE plays guitar and sings – and what a VOICE! Sounding similar to a strangled version of Howlin’ Wolf, Bukka White’s vocals are a thing of blues wonder – as real and as grits-ain’t-groceries as it can get. When the band is used on “Bed Spring Blues” and “Got Sick & Tired” - the Washboard and shuffling rhythm of the Drums give the songs an almost fun feel – such a tremendous listen. But then to counter that, you’re hit with his gutsy lone acoustic blues version of Big Joe Williams’ classic “Baby Please Don’t Go” where he plays a blinder.

I confess to not knowing much about Bukka White – shame on me – but this sneakily brilliant double CD set has changed all that.

Another typically superb job done by all the good people at Blue Horizon who respected these cultural giants then - and still do now. Recommended.

PS: the title of this review is the spoken intro by Bukka White on the live version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” on Disc 1

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