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Monday, May 23, 2011

Big Joe Williams: Blues On Highway 49


1) Highway 49; 2) Overhaul Your Machine; 3) Blues Left Texas; 4) No. 13 Highway; 5) Down In The Bottoms; 6) Poor Beggar; 7) That Thing's In Town; 8) Walk On, Little Girl; 9) Tiajuana Blues; 10) 45 Blues; 11) Arkansas Wo­man; 12) Four Corners Of The World.

This particular Delmark recording was made in July, 1961, in Chicago. This time Big Joe is ac­companied throughout by his old associate Ransom Knowling on bass — and nothing else; play­ing, predictably, his old nine-string acoustic without amplification. None of the songs overlap with Piney Woods Blues — in fact, few of the songs, bar the title track, overlap with any of Big Joe's previous recordings, which is nice to know theoretically but, in the long run, does not make that much of a difference. A new Big Joe Williams song, after all, is just an old B.J.W. song with new lyrics, not much more.

There is a little bit more boogie on here than on Piney Woods Blues ('Down In The Bottoms', 'That Thing's In Town'), and it is played with a little more verve — Knowling's help on these num­bers is particularly important, reasserting the toe-tapping factor, and Joe's ability to play rhythm and lead at the same time seems to be improving with age: it is ironic to think that Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup made himself a whole living out of recording endless clones of the same song as 'That Thing's In Town', and yet he was never able to play it as well as Big Joe does here.

Out of the proper blues numbers, though, the only one worth saving is 'Four Corners Of The World'. There is a reason why it closes the album — upon hearing it, there is really no need to hear anything else. It's longer than all the other slow blues numbers; it's got the loudest bass part of them all; it has Big Joe hollering at the top of his powers; and it's got him playing all of the tricks he knows. The only thing here that even begins to approach «essential» status.

Check "Blues On Highway 49" (CD)
Check "Blues On Highway 49" (MP3)

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