MBDC-2003 Texas Alexander Vol. 3 – 9th June to 1950.
Texas Alexander, vocal.
Includes performances by: The Mississippi Sheiks (Bo Carter, violin; Sam Chatman, guitar; Walter Vincson, guitar); Walter Reed, guitar; Carl Davis, guitar; Buster Pickens, piano; Leon Benton, guitar.
Genres: Texas Country Blues, Country Blues guitar, String Band.
Informative booklet notes by Paul Oliver.
Abridged from booklet notes.
Texas Alexander was accustomed to singing to the accompaniment of a guitarist and most of his recordings had been of this kind. But when he was back in the recording studio in San Antonio on June 9th, 1930 it was in very different company. Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks were in town and were booked to record over a four day session. They were brought in to back Texas Alexander to start with, providing him with a rare string band setting. They were uncompromising and, unlike his usual deferential accompanists, made no attempt to fit in with his wayward tempos and stanzas. The effect was to discipline his singing and to provide it with an unfamiliar swing. The session also produced one of Alexander’s most lyrically significant blues, which told in condensed form of the great tornado of May 6th, 1930, just a month before, which hit Frost in Navarro County, and other locations, leaving 41 people dead and causing over $2.000,000 damage.
In 1934, on Deceitful Blues, he mentions that he was planning to exchange his Ford for an eight-cylinder Cadillac: “I’m gonna trade this Lincoln, get me a Cadillac Eight”, helped maybe, with the payment from his recent sessions. Vocalion had doubtless decided to develop a new image for their recently acquired singer, and the first title, Blues In My Mind was unexpectedly, something of a pop song. The images were pretty conventional: “I’m crying’, with tears in my eyes” etc. It’s tempting to assume that this was foisted upon him, but internal evidence suggest it was Alger’s own attempt at song writing, especially the phrase “left me all in a strain” which was one which is peculiar to him (he used it again on Katy Crossing Blues). Fortunately, after his brief essay in an unfamiliar and unsuitable idiom he settled into the kind of blues of which he was master. The accompaniment of his Sax Black Tams was unusual for him, though the clarinettist who revealed a strong New Orleans vein in his playing, was sensitive in his accompaniments and more than able in his solos. On Polo Blues Texas got into his stride, using the kind of verses that make his blues so singular. Apart from the sexual ambivalence in the final line, the localised imagery sets his blues firmly in rural Texas: a “polo” was a “polled” animal whose horns had been removed so that it’s “strength” would go into beef and milk. A note of protest enters Normangee Blues and though the identity of Mister Batson remains unclear, the comparison of their respective clothes must have been the kind of point that appealed to the black audiences. As a driver, Texas Alexander must have been aware of the “Safety First” campaign of the mid-1930s and amusingly applied it when he sang on Worried Blues “I’m gonna get myself a black woman and play ‘safety first’ “. He may never have been a “topical” singer, but he was far from insulated from his times. One Morning Blues opened with “one morning, when God begin to break his day. . .” and continued with a mention of Johnny Ryan, the plantation owner who, like Cunningham, worked the convict lease system to which Leadbelly referred. If the gang labour songs of his first sessions in 1927 had now been dispensed with, hints of them still remained.