Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
Just the mention of piano blues summons the sounds of many different styles to my mind’s ears: barrelhouse, ragtime, boogie woogie, swing, R&B... Although all of these styles owe something to the barrelhouse piano players of the bordellos and saloons of major cities, the only characteristic that they all share is that the piano is the primary musical instrument.
Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways is a wonderful introduction to the various styles of piano blues performed by many of the innovators of the genre. Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways is the latest in the Smithsonian Folkways great ‘Classic’ series, which includes Classic Old-Time Fiddle, Classic Blues (Vols. 1 & 2), Classic Bluegrass (Vols. 1 & 2), Classic Old-Time Music, and a slew of other great recordings from the archives of Folkways Recordings founder, Moses Asch.
Included in this great collection, mostly recorded at Asch’s studio between the1940s and the ‘60s, are a few rare and wonderful cuts not widely available since originally pressed. Naturally, boogie-woogie is well represented with two renditions of Pinetop Smith’s classic “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” performed by Speckled Red and Little Brother Montgomery. Two other foot tapping boogie woogie tunes, Memphis Slim’s hopin’ “Dedication to Pete Johnson” and Meade “Lux” Lewis’ “Medium Blues” will fill your urge to boogie.
During the Folk Revival, Huddie Ledbetter was a staple for Asch’s Folkways. Although mostly known as a guitar player, Lead Belly was a multi-instrumentalist. Here he accompanies his signature vocals with a great little number on the piano, “Big Fat Woman.”
Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways is worthy of its title. This collection is chock full of great, classic piano blues recordings. ‘Champion’ Jack Dupree pays homage to the archive’s founder with a song entitled “On My Way To See Moe Asch.” Memphis Slim is accompanied by bass player Willie Dixon on “Wish Me Well.” Sammy Price presents a bluesy jazz number entitled “Harlem Parlor Blues.” St. Louis style blues are beautifully presented by Henry Brown on piano and Edith North Johnson singing a soulful “Little Drops of Water.”
Smithsonian Folkways has done an outstanding job of presenting some of the gems in its vast collection. I will be looking forward to Volume 2 of this collection. In the mean time Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways will be in regular rotation on the Bus.
Title: Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
Label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Available from: purchase or download from Smithsonian Folkways or Smithsonian Global Sound
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