Everything’s gotta come from somewhere, right? Crosby begat Dino and Ol’ Blue Eyes, Bird begat Cannonball and Phil Woods, and so on. At the risk of sounding like Mr. Hyperbole, a LOT of music grew from the seeds of song on the disc in question; this, volume two of the When The Sun Goes Down
series, The First Time I Met The Blues
. This is a collection of pre-electric, pre-WWII blues: acoustic country blues and urban blues, songs that were redone and re-worked by a staggering variety of Rock & Roll, Blues (post-A-bomb generation), Folk and Country performers.
There’s a healthy variety of music here, reminding us that though racial and social barriers were a lot more rigid than today, musical barriers then were a little looser. Country and R&B performers covered each other’s songs, early Country music was greatly influenced by blues, and Bing Crosby, perhaps the first white hepcat in America, sang blues, jazz, pop and Irish balladry and Hawaiian songs. This 25-track, 78-minute compilation contains a gem of such musical miscegenation: Jimmie Rodgers’ sublime "Blue Yodel #9" which features accompaniment by Louis Armstrong and Lil Hardin. Otherwise, Blind Willie McTell was an influence on Bob Dylan, and his "Statesboro Blues," included here, was covered by many, notably by The Allman Brothers; The Grateful Dead learnt "Viola Lee Blues" from Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers" and "Stealin’" from the Memphis Jug Band. The MJB were as eclectic in their day as the Dead in their 60s/70s heyday, and shared some of the same pastimes and lyrical concerns: listen to their "Cocaine Habit Blues," which would NOT get played on the radio today. I thought that eerie, feral clarinet on Genevieve Davis’ mini-epic "Haven’t Got A Dollar To Pay Your Rent Man" was Sidney Bechet.... but it wasn’t (though it might’ve well have been). Back then, Blues women had no truck with that co-dependent "you treat me like crap, but I love you" jive that plagued their Jazz/torch singing sisters - dig Sippie Wallace’s "I’m A Mighty Tight Woman" and Lizzie Miles’ "I Hate A Man Like You." You’ll find no long-winded, show-off-y solos, no slick, glossy production here - just bare-bones (mostly) Blues about the joys (legal or not) and tribulations in the the time(s) of the performers then (and to some extent today).