Sonny Boy Williamson Vol. 2 (1938-1939)
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Sonny Boy Williamson
Complete Recorded Works 5 May 1937 – 12 November 1947
Vol 2: (17th June to 21st July 1939)
Featuring the recordings of:
Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee Williamson), vocal / harmonica; Walter Davis, piano on 1; Yank Rachell, mandolin (except on 7) / possibly speech on 1; “Jackson” Joe Williams, guitar / possibly speech on 1. Sonny Boy Williamson, vocal / harmonica; Speckled Red, piano; probably Willie Hatcher, mandolin; probably Robert Lee McCoy guitar. Sonny Boy Williamson, vocal / harmonica; Walter Davis, piano (except on 24); Big Bill Broonzy, guitar.
Genres: Blues, Chicago Blues, Madison County, Tennessee Blues, Chicago Blues, Blues Harmonica, Blues Mandolin, Blues Piano, Blues Guitar
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. By 1938 any lingering doubts Bluebird might have had about Sonny Boy Williamson had been laid to rest and they had him in the studio three times that year. Sonny Boy was joined by Big Joe Williams and Yank Rachell during his second session in the studio and it is speculated to be the latter playing guitar on the rather hastily arranged title track My Baby I’ve Been Your Slave. For the second number Yank Rachell is on his more usual instrument, the Mandolin, to contribute to the crisp backing of Whiskey Headed Blues, a number that has since been given various treatments by artists such as Tommy McClennan and John Lee Hooker. On Shannon Street Sonny Boy describes getting drunk in Jackson and his wife’s reaction to the event. Alcohol and Sonny Boy Williamson were not a good mix and he would have increasing problems with it throughout his life. Deep Down In The Ground is built on the base of another song “Stack of Dollars”, a song associated with Sleepy John Estes and often performed by Big Joe Williams. For the next session Sonny Boy Williamson found himself in the recording company of Robert Lee McCoy (Nighthawk) on guitar, Rufus ‘Speckled Red’ Perryman on piano and an unknown (speculated to be Willie Hatcher) on mandolin. This time round the songs were more of a mixture and Sonny Boy illustrates that both he and his Harmonica have made the transition from a country style of playing to a big city environment sound. On the tracks Little Girl Blues and Low Down Ways it is almost impossible to believe that the same man can be both playing and singing. Other tracks include the swing dance numbers Susie Q, and Goodbye Red which is a reply to Harlem Hamfats’ hugely successful “Oh Red!”. These upbeat, foot tapping, down-home numbers are balanced by the urban inspired tracks Insurance Man and The Right Kind Of Life. More innovations were to follow on the 1939 session where Sonny Boy was joined by Walter Davis and Big Bill Broonzy. One of the outstanding tracks Little Low Woman Blues has Sonny Boy playing a high register harmonica which foreshadows the sound of Jimmy Reed. Big Bill‘s guitar work is more sophisticated than that of Sonny Boy‘s previous partners, shown to good effect on the tracks Good For Nothing Blues and Sugar Mama Blues No.2 where his delicate runs and fills almost over-shadow the harmonica. On the final track Good Gravy Big Bill and Sonny Boy spark off each other to perform a bravura performance that really swings.Keith Briggs Copyright 1991 Document Records