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Monday, June 6, 2011

Big Joe Williams: Back To The Country


BIG JOE WILLIAMS: BACK TO THE COUNTRY (1964)

1) Ain't Gonna Be Your Lowdown Dog; 2) Annie Mae; 3) You Can Stay Out; 4) Mean Backstabber; 5) Worry You Off My Mind; 6) Miss Ida B; 7) Put On Your Nightcap; 8) Woody Woodpecker; 9) I Got My Ticket; 10) Shake Your Boogie; 11) See See Rider; 12) Blues Everywhere I Go; 13) Worried And Lonesome; 14) My Black Woman; 15) The Moon Is Rising; 16) Down The Line; 17) My Baby Left Me A Mule To Ride; 18) Desert Blues; 19) Breakdown.

The distinguishing factor here is the constant accompaniment of Willie Lee Harris on harmonica and Jimmy Brown on fiddle (he also takes lead vocals quite a few times). This gives you a laid-back, front porch atmosphere. Blue moon rising, 'gators in the swamp, jambalaya on the bayou, that sort of thing (I'm too lazy to go hunting for additional Delta / Louisiana clichés). Unfortuna­tely, it sort of leaves open the question of whether anyone would give a damn if, surreptitiously, they snatched Big Joe from under our noses and replaced him with Average Joe.

The trio gets a fairly authentic sound, to be sure, but the collective powers of Brown and Harris cannot replace the solitary power of Willie Dixon's bass, and Big Joe does not seem to be particu­larly trying. He is doing what he is expected to be doing — recreating the atmosphere of a friend­ly get-together — and if that is what you want to hear, an honest 1964 recreation of an amicable musical encounter between three amicable black country-blues musicians around 1934, that is exactly what you are going to get. But at his best, Big Joe is an exciting entertainer, energetic and unpredictable, and in the settings of a friendly get-together, there is no need to be an exciting en­tertainer, since there's no one to entertain anyway.

Meaning that these twenty tracks (many of which are not repeated from earlier recordings, but it never really matters) are mildly interesting for one listen unless you are a Delta dweller all by yourself, but, overall, it is not going to displace Walking Blues as the one late period Big Joe al­bum to own if you really have to own one.

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