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November 1997

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Surprise

Various Artists
Blues Across America: The Dallas Scene
Cannonball

Blues Across America album coverThe newly-formed Cannonball Records makes a big splash this month with both the Flashback choice as well as this Surprise disc of the month. Blues Across America: The Dallas Scene features three different groupings of longtime artists still playing the blues in Dallas, Texas.

Country blues singer/guitarist Henry Qualls provides the first four cuts, and these are the highlights of the disc. Qualls plays raw, downhome blues that comes across as truly beautiful music. His slide playing is wonderful on the slow gospel number "What You Gonna Do?" And Qualls shows a powerful vocal style on a quirky, loping version of the jump blues standard "Caledonia." Listening to this music brings out my deep-seated longing to hang around in jook joints the rest of my life.

The second artist on this CD is veteran Dallas singer Big Al Dupree, who possesses a booming deep voice much in the style of Big Joe Turner. What makes these four cuts stand out is the excellent tenor sax work of C.B. Williams, who many years ago played on Lowell Fulson's mega-hit "Reconsider Baby." You'll also hear some nice guitar by Andrew "Jr. Boy" Jones, especially on the slow blues "Positive Thinking." Dupree shows that he's more than just a good singer by playing hot piano on "Early This Morning."

This fine collection closes out with four numbers featuring raspy-voiced singer Charles Young with "Jr. Boy" Jones again on guitar. The aforementioned Williams also encores on sax with this group. The best cut here is an extended medley of B.B. King and Little Joe Blue tunes.

I'm hoping that The Dallas Scene is just the first of Cannonball's travels in search of Blues Across America. If subsequent compilations are as good as this one, it'll certainly be a valuable trip for all blues fans.

- Bill Mitchell

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