Carolina Slim – Complete Recorded Works (1950-1952)
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Abridged booklet notes. Ed Harris was a man of many names; like certain other blues singers he seemed to delight in his shifting identity, flitting between styles of performance as easily as he did between pseudonyms. He made a substantial dent on the post war blues market – substantial that is for an itinerant musician of the old school who got his start by working around the tobacco growing region of Durham, North Carolina, for tips. Like most singers from that area he was heavily influenced by Blind Boy Fuller but, by the time Harris came to record the wider distribution of records both for private purchase and for use in Juke boxes, brought about by the boom conditions of the second world war, meant that he was quite as familiar with the work of Texan, Lightnin’ Hopkins, as he was with that of singers from his own bailiwick. Harris’ first recordings were made in 1950 when he was only seventeen years old. They were cut for Herman Lubinsky’s Savoy set-up and released under the Acorn logo as by Carolina Slim.
His next session also saw issue on Acorn but one track later appeared on the Savoy label, another Lubinsky concern, as by “Jammin’ Jim”. By 1951 Slim was popular enough to record for Lubinsky on Savoy and Sharp in June and moonlight for Syd Nathan on King a few months later. This, of course, required yet another identity and the recordings were released as by “Country Paul”. Paul seems to have been Ed Harris’ middle name as writer credits on his King issues are to P. Harris or P. Howard. Slim’s fine version of Blind Boy Fuller’s Rag Mama, with what Blues Records 1943-1970 lists as a drummer but which sounds more like a washboard, comes from this year. Slim’s work for King was similar to what he had been doing for Sharp (he even revamped Slo-Freight Blues into Your Picture Done Faded) and recording conditions were just as primitive; if you listen to Side Walk Boogie you can hear traffic passing in the road outside the studio. For his last session Slim returned to Lubinsky who this time issued his work on the parent label Savoy – but under the new sobriquet Lazy Slim Jim. Ed Harris was a prime example of the last flowering of the rural tradition of blues singing to be seen by the record companies as a viable commercial proposition.