BARBECUE BOB: COMPLETE RECORDED WORKS VOL. 3 (1929-1930)
1) She Moves It Just Right; 2) Tellin' It To You; 3) Yo-Yo Blues No. 2; 4) She Shook Her Gin; 5) We Sure Got Hard Times; 6) Twistin' That Stuff; 7) Monkey And The Baboon; 8) Spider And The Fly; 9) Darktown Gambling Pt. 1; 10) Darktown Gambling Pt. 2; 11) Jambooger Blues; 12) It Just Won't Quit; 13) Atlanta Moan; 14) New Mojo Blues; 15) Doin' The Scraunch; 16) I'm On My Way Down Home; 17) Diddle-Da-Diddle; 18) She Looks So Good; 19) She's Coming Back Some Cold Rainy Day.
Like most country bluesmen with only their guitar to keep them company, at first Barbecue Bob did not suffer from Depression effects nearly as much as the urban blues queens — apparently, his rate of recording just wobbled a bit, rather than crumble. But he certainly was no Hollywood millionnaire, either, and his 'We Sure Got Hard Times' is one of those symbolic tunes of the era whose names are so prone to becoming clichéd in our minds without remembering where it all comes from. He must have taken some inspiration from Blind Blake, probably, the first country bluesman not afraid to inject some political bite in his lyrics — "Just before election, you was talking about how you was going to vote / And after election was over, your head's down like a billygoat" (ironically, he did not live long enough to see FDR in power).
Other than this landmark, Vol. 3 boasts a couple curious novelty tunes ('Monkey And The Baboon') and a few darker-than-usual numbers like 'Spider And The Fly', as well as a silly two-part «skit» called 'Darktown Gambling', in which Bob plays and sings a tiny bit and then spends something like five minutes quarrelling with his brother Charley Lincoln over a crap game. (Period historians and etnographers ahoy!). In terms of guitar technique or recording quality, there are no changes whatsoever.
Perhaps the biggest individual attraction of Vol. 3, though, are the last four tracks, credited to «The Georgia Cotton Pickers» — a one-time band assembled from Bob, Curley Weaver on second guitar, and newcomer Buddy Moss on harmonica; Buddy would go on to become one of the most important East Coast bluesmen, but here he is just an aspiring sideman learning his craft from the masters of action — Bob and Curley — quite happy to even be allowed to blow his harp quietly in the background. They do Blind Blake ('Diddle-Da-Diddle', an easily recognizable retitling of 'Diddie Wah Diddie'), 'Sittin' On Top Of The World' renamed as 'I'm On My Way Down Home', and a couple other generic blues pieces. If I am correct in my reckoning, it is Curley who plays lead, mostly, and does it far more elegantly than Bob ever could — on the other hand, it is Bob who is responsible for all the vocals, and performs with far more expression than Curley could ever muster on his records. Quid pro quo all over the place.
Sadly, these few recordings by the Pickers in December 1930 were the last for Bob. Hard times caught up with him pretty soon: for the following several months, he was out of work, and then, at the peak of unluckiness, got carried away with influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis on October 21, 1931. It is highly unlikely that he would have gone on to bigger and better things had he stayed alive, so, from a completist-reviewer's cynical-pragmatic point of view, he did good, but from the humanist point of view — well, the best we can do is go on ensuring that the world remembers his best creations, such as 'Motherless Child' etc., for at least a little while longer.
Check "Barbecue Bob Vol. 3" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Barbecue Bob Vol. 3" (MP3) on Amazon