Blues Bytes


August 2016

David "Honeyboy" Edwards
I'm Gonna Tell You Somethin' That I Know
Pro Sho Bidness

Honeyboy Edwards

When David “Honeyboy” Edwards passed away in 2011, the blues world lost its last living link to the pre-war Mississippi Delta blues era. Over his 80-plus year career, he crossed paths with nearly all of the blues legends of the era, and was always willing and eager to relate his experiences to blues audiences hungry for knowledge about their musical heroes. His autobiography, The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing, should occupy a key position in any self-respecting blues fans’ bookshelf.

Though he slipped through the cracks early in his career, Edwards was able to record more frequently in his later years, beginning in the ’70s, and he began to be appreciated more for his own contributions to the blues rather than his association with other artists, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in early 2010. Even into his mid-90s, he was still a skilled guitarist and his weathered vocals spelled “Delta blues” whenever he opened his mouth.

Several months after receiving the Grammy, Edwards returned to Los Angeles for an appearance at the G Spot, where he was backed by his longtime friend/manager/collaborator Michael Frank and Chicago-born/California-based guitarist Jeff Dale and his band, the South Woodlawners. The event was filmed and recorded and turned out to be the last time a live Edwards performance was ever documented, and has recently been issued as a CD/DVD package called I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know (Pro Sho Bidness), which should also be an essential part of any blues fans’ collection.

Edwards runs through ten songs that will be familiar to his fans, including songs from Howlin’ Wolf (“Ride With Me Tonight”), Muddy Waters (“Country Boy”), Robert Lockwood, Jr. (“Little Boy Blue”), and a pair from Jimmy Rogers (“You’re The One” and “That’s Alright,” with an alternate version included on the CD). There are also versions of “Goin’ Down Slow,” “Catfish Blues,” and Edwards’ own “Apron Strings.” He plays all of these with his usual mix of spirit, passion and wit, and he gets rock solid support from Frank on harmonica and Dale on guitar for the first three tracks, then with Dale and his band for the remainder.

While both formats are well worth a listen, the DVD stands out for a couple of reasons. First, the camera work focuses largely on Edwards, so viewers have a great opportunity to watch his approach to playing guitar, especially on slide guitar, and his unique vocal approach. Edwards’ timing was also pretty unique and Dale and the band do a great job in support. Second, at the conclusion of the performance on the DVD, there’s a lengthy excerpt of Edwards talking to his audience, telling stories about his early days as a musician and tales about Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and others. He also takes a few minutes to give some pretty sage advice to musicians.

I was able to see Edwards (with Hubert Sumlin) about six months after this appearance, about six months before his death. He was as lively then as he was on this performance, pretty impressive given the fact that he was approaching 96 years old. Blues fans were so fortunate to have this great man as long as we did. He was not only a connection to the earlier days of the blues, but he was still making great music at the same time. I can’t recommend this set enough for anyone who calls themselves a blues fan.

--- Graham Clarke
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