Blues Bytes


July 2023

Various Artists
70th Anniversary Blues Album
Delmark Records

Delmark 70th Anniversary

70 years after founder Bob Koester released his first recording, Delmark Records is recognized as the oldest independent jazz and blues label in the world, with over 12,000 recordings of nearly everyone who’s anyone in the blues and jazz genres. Koester, who passed away two years ago, sold the label in 2018 to Julia Miller and Elbio Barilari. Delmark has continued to thrive, releasing 30 albums over the last five years and digitally releasing over 12,000 songs from their catalog, as well as continuing to discover new talent in the jazz and blues fields.

Delmark recently released 70th Anniversary Blues Anthology (on LP and digitally, with a CD to follow) to celebrate this milestone. Despite the seemingly daunting task of selecting tracks, the ten tracks chosen for the album cover the 70 years of the label’s blues recording history remarkably well. Sure, there’s always room for quibbling, but I’ve listened to the label myself for half of its 70 years and I can’t argue with any of these selections, as they are all excellent choices, among Delmark’s finest.

I can’t think of a better way to kick off the album than with Junior Wells’ funky “Snatch It Back And Hold It,” the opening cut on what many consider to be Delmark’s finest blues release, Hoodoo Man Blues. Of course, Wells is backed by Buddy Guy (dubbed “Friendly Chap” on the original album for contractual reasons). For many blues fans, Magic Sam’s 1968 album West Side Soul is a close second for favorite Delmark blues release, with Sam’s classic “All Of Your Love” also represented on this collection.

Otis Rush cut two memorable albums for the label during the ’70s, and revisited one of his classic Cobra sides, “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)” on his 1976 release Cold Day In Hell album, which is represented here. Rush sat in with fellow Windy City guitarist Jimmy Dawkins on Dawkins’ 1972 All For Business album. The title track, featuring Andrew “Big Voice” Odom on vocals, was a standout and is a good fit on this collection.

Closing out Side 1 is the jazz-flavored “Blues For A Day,” from Dinah Washington’s 1945 session for Apollo Records (reissued by Delmark in the early ’90s) with Lucky Thompson, Milt Jackson, and Charlie Mingus, among others.

Delmark also reissued T-Bone Walker’s I Want A Little Girl album, originally recorded by the French label Black & Blues in 1968. This was the first T-Bone Walker recording I ever owned (but not the last!) and the stylish title track is showcased here, a great example of his latter-day work. “Big Time Sarah” Streeter was a mainstay of the label for most of the ’90s, with her powerful vocals and charismatic performances, and she gets a spot in the anthology with “Long Tall Daddy,” a tough mid-tempo track from her 1996 release, Blues In The Year One-D-One.

Delmark released The Blues World of Little Walter in 1994, featuring the harmonica legend sitting in with Muddy Waters, Baby Face Leroy Foster and others in a series of early ’50s sessions. The raw, hard-charging “I Just Keep Loving Her” featured Walter on vocals and harp backed by Waters and Foster.

Some of Memphis Slim’s greatest sides were recorded for United Records, featuring the amazing Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Delmark released two albums collecting their work for United. 1954’s “Memphis Slim U.S.A.” is the title track of their 1962 album.

The late, great Jimmy Johnson wraps up the collection with the soulful “Ashes In My Ashtray,” from his 1979 effort Johnson’s Whacks.

Of course, ten tracks is not enough to cover the deep blues archives of Delmark Records, but the label made very wise choices in compiling the tracks for 70th Anniversary Blues Anthology, guaranteed to please longtime fans and encourage newcomers to dig deeper into the label’s catalog.

--- Graham Clarke


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