Mississippi: The Blues Lineage (Rounder) collects 16 songs from the Deep River of Song series of field recordings, made by John and Alan Lomax and others at the Library of Congress between 1933 and 1942. Along with Muddy Waters (two songs from 1942) and Son House, we get to hear David Honeyboy Edwards in his first recorded performance, Lucious Curtis and Willie Ford, a guitar playing duo recorded in Natchez in 1940, and the amazing William Brown, not to be confused with the better-known Willie Brown who accompanied Charley Patton. Because of the way these recordings were made (with a portable unit recording directly to metal or acetate), the sound quality is less than perfect; in fact, at times it is not very good. But the amazing booklet more than makes up for this. Imagine: 56 pages, with historical and biographical information, plus complete transcriptions of what is being sung or said (for there are also interviews with musicians), all written by musicologist David Evans. If it didn't already have a prominent place in my record collection, this CD would be a great addition... to my blues books collection!
There is also a companion CD, Mississippi: Saints and Sinners (Rounder), also compiled from the Alan Lomax collection. This one offers pre-blues types of music, both secular and religious. (The first 16 "songs" were recorded for the most part in prison, with an inmate called Jim Henry the star of three of these; the last nine were recorded by a group of old timers and traditionalists at Mt. Ararat Missionary Baptist Church in 1941). Aside from Sid Hemphill on quills and fiddle, most of the other performers here are total unknowns, but all are truly fascinating. Did you know the origin of Mark Twain, the name Samuel Clemens chose for himself? Well, listen to Joe Shores call out the depth of the water under his boat, and you will.
Together, these records are the best time-travel machine money can buy. And yes, the booklet here is every bit as thorough as the other one.
--- Benoît Brière
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