The blues didn’t stop with the end of the 50s – as soul ruled the charts, the grittier end of black music was well represented by the artists on this compilation. Great guitar playing to the fore.
20 years after the release in Japan of P-Vine’s limited-edition “Modern/Kent Blues Treasures” CD series, the anniversary isn’t going to spark a lot of commemorations, but it does make a renewed appreciation for these obscure 1950s and 1960s West Coast blues from the vaults of the Bihari Brothers’ labels a little extra timely. Accordingly, Ace has compiled two CDs from the Bihari archives, based strongly on the four-volume P-Vine series but with a few additions (and obviously a couple of CDs’ worth of omissions).
The first volume, “Dirty Work Going On”, issued a few months ago, reflected the West Coast band blues of the time. This second volume retains the Texas blues base but focuses more on gutbucket, downhome blues, which means harmonica replaces horns and the shadows of Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Williamson loom large.
The CD is centred around 11 sides from Willie Headen and Willie Garland. Headen’s Dootone sides have been well represented (see CDCHD 1118) but this time out his great Modern sides are featured. There are also seven outings for Long Gone Miles with George Smith featured on harmonica. The lesser-known ‘Before Day (Big Mama’s Blues)’ from Willie Mae Thornton’s Modern 45 kicks off with a great bit of chat from her, and a previously unknown Smokey Wilson track is also included. The compilation is rounded off by a terrific Model T Slim session produced by Bruce and Michael Bromberg. Of the 24 tracks, only five were released at the time, eight came out on the P-Vine CDs, and 11 are previously unreleased.
Together, the two collections evoke a time and place that feel increasingly remote. When this music was created it was during a time of change, for the blues and for society, and the music and sociopolitical perspectives heard here are well worth a look back.