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The Devil Is A Busy Man by Various Artists

Many blues and jazz collectors, including this reviewer, enjoy historical anthologies. These compilations provide us with a quick glimpse into a particular era, instrument or geographical style. The Devil Is A Busy Man is no exception and offers twenty blues performances from the early 1950s drawn from minor labels.

This early electric blues compilation is a true treasure chest of valuable material by both famous and obscure bluesmen. Chicago's Sunnyland Slim (Albert Luandrew), who penned the song in the early fifties, does the title track. Later known as pianist for the early Muddy Waters band, Sunnyland Slim recorded this piece for the Blue Lake label in 1954.

While this collection comes from a host of labels including Marlin, Rockin' and Chart Records, we'll concentrate on the coverage of the Parrot label within this review. Parrot and its subsidiary, Blue Lake Records were the property of Chicago disc jockey Al Benson. The company operated between 1953 and 1956. During that short period, Parrot and Blue Lake issued 295 sides on 78s and 45s. Al Benson (1908-1978) was once profiled in print as "The Godfather of Black Radio in Chicago." The popular DJ became a major force in the world of R&B.

Musically, this album is a potpourri of many of Benson's stable of artists. Harmonica master, Snooky Pryor belts out his own "Crosstown Blues" from a 1954 studio session. It's followed by the fiery "Four Day Jump" featuring Little Willie Foster's fine band. The track offers some great blues piano by Lazy Bill Lucas. It's a gem!

"Easy Lovin'" is a rocking piece from December 1955 by the Little Papa Joe (Jody Williams) band. Interestingly, the outfit features jazz tenor-man Harold Ashby and blues legend, bassist Willie Dixon.

L.C. McKinley's "Rosalie Blues" from 1953 was Blue Lake's tenth release. The Mississippi-born guitarist backed many Chicago blues artists during the 50s including the legendary Tampa Red. His recorded output was extremely limited.

One can't speak of Chicago guitarists without mentioning J.B. Lenoir. Lenoir was introduced to the Chicago scene by Big Bill Broonzy in 1949. Like Josh White, Lenoir performed controversial topical songs like "Eisenhower Blues" and "Korea Blues." This collection offers his 1954 single "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter."

The Devil Is A Busy Man has a lot to offer and is a recommended addition to your blues collection. Sound samples are available at the label's web site.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various Artists
  • CD Title: The Devil Is A Busy Man
  • Genre: Blues
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Reissue Original Release: 1950s
  • Record Label: Empire Musicwerks
  • Tracks: The Devil Is A Busy Man; Murder In The First Degree; Watch Yourself; Drop Anchor; Wear Your Black Dress; Mama talk To Your Daughter; Rosalie Blues; Easy Lovin; Blue Blue Boogie; Cool Playing Blues; Crosstown Blues; Four Day Jump; Bad Luck Blues; On The Hook; Goin' To New Orleans; She's Takin' All My Money; Alley Blues; Walkin' The Streets; Goin' Back Home Today; Lost Child.'
  • Musicians: Sunnyland Slim; St. Louis Jimmy; Henry Gray; Harmonica Slim; Willie Egan; J.B.Lenoir; L.C.McKinley; Little Papa Joe; Nature Boy Brown; Curtis Jones; Snooky Pryor; Little Willie Foster; Albert King; Earl Hooker; Little Sammy Davis; Johnny Lewis; Jimmy Wilson; Lightnin Hopkins; Willie (W.C.) Baker; Eddie Hope & The Mannish Boys.'
  • Rating: Four Stars
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