Backwoods Blues 1926-1935
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Featuring the recording of:
Bo Weavil Jackson (Sam Butler), vocal / guitar. Bobby Grant, vocal / guitar. King Solomon Hill (Joe Holmes), vocal / guitar. Lane Hardin, vocal / guitar.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues; Alabama Blues, Mississippi Blues, Texas Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Gospel
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. Beyond the few metalled highways in the South of six decades ago the dirt roads wound through the country, linking the settlements and farm communities of the backwoods. Some farms were literally in the woods, established in the untidily cleared forest. But the term “backwoods” was loosely applied to any isolated settlement where few people had any experience of the larger world of the Southern cities. In most communities though, there were musicians who played for dances or at the roadside jukes, and a number of them gained a more than local reputation. Some, more adventurous than their companions, went “down the dirt road” to try their luck in town. Sam Butlers Paramount recordings were released as by “Bo Weavil“. His first title, Pistol Blues sung in his rather high, somewhat strident voice, was partly based on the “Crow Jane” theme. Jackson’s vocal style was that of a singer accustomed to Street singing and it’s very likely that he would have sung spirituals to people coming back from Church. He chose a couple for this session, including an early recorded version of When the Saints Come Marching In. A week or two later Jackson was in New York, recording for the Vocalion company who issued his records as by Sam Butler. He made a heartfelt version of one of the oldest blues Poor Boy … “long ways from home”, with his bottleneck slide whispering on the strings. Clearly, his mind was on Alabama as Jefferson County Blues confirms. We are able to eavesdrop on his creative process as he reworked it with a second take. It seems that he took the train back South, and the dirt road to his backwoods home and obscurity. Bobby Grant too, was recorded in Chicago – but he was thinking of Atlanta, Georgia, in his Lonesome Atlanta Blues with its perfectly placed, hanging notes. Grant’s words on Nappy Head were full of backwoods references as he sang “you’ like a turkey, comin’ through the mamlish corn.” A little more is known of King Solomon Hill. He had a style of his own, using impeccable falsettos, as on the second take of Whoopee Blues. His masterly account of trying to hobo a ride on The Gone Dead Train is haunting in the matching of guitar and vocal. It was the “hard times” of the Depression about which Lane Hardin sang in his calling voice. Perhaps he succeeded in taking the train across the California Desert to the land of his dreams, Los Angeles. But it’s more than likely that he stayed at home in, we may assume from his guitar style, Mississippi.Paul Oliver Copyright 1991 Document Records