Blues Bytes

August 1997

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Robert Lee McCoy
The Bluebird Recordings

Robert Lee McCoy's Bluebird RecordingsWe normally choose a new recording as our monthly Blues Bytes Pick Hit. But for my money, few classic blues artists packed the power and emotional wallop as Robert Lee McCoy (nee Robert McCollum, aka Robert Nighthawk).

The Bluebird Recordings were made on three different dates in 1937 and 1938, and were released under the names Robert Lee McCoy and Ramblin' Bob. The sessions took place on the top floor of the Leland Hotel in Aurora, Illinois, and constitute all known recordings made by McCoy for Bluebird. Sound quality is very good considering the fact that the tracks weren't recorded in an actual studio.

What really makes this disc special is the backing musicians, all of them blues legends in their own right. John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson plays delightful harmonica on all cuts, Big Joe Williams and Henry Townsend take turns on second guitar, and Townsend and Speckled Red make appearances on piano.

The classic tune found here is "Prowling Night Hawk," a ramblin' blues which ultimately gave McCoy the name he would use throughout the remainder of his career.

If you like your blues deep and dark, then you'll enjoy the foreboding "My Friend Has Forsaken Me," with excellent harp from Williamson.

The uptempo "Take It Easy Baby" has been covered by many artists over the last 60 years, but McCoy's version may just rank as the definitive one.

RCA has also released a similar collection by Williamson. Both discs belong in a comprehensive blues collection.

- Bill Mitchell

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