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Monday, March 26, 2012

Blind Blake: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 3 (1928-1929)


1) Elzadie's Policy Blues; 2) Pay Day Daddy Blues; 3) Walkin' Across The Country; 4) Search Warrant Blues; 5) Ramblin' Mama Blues; 6) New Style Of Loving; 7) Back Door Slam Blues; 8) Notoriety Woman Blues; 9) Cold Hearted Mama Blues; 10) Low Down Loving Gal; 11) Sweet Papa Low Down; 12) Poker Woman Blues; 13) Doing A Stretch; 14) Fightin' The Jug; 15) Hookworm Blues; 16) Slippery Rag; 17) Hastings Street; 18) Diddie Wah Did­die; 19) Too Tight Blues No. 2; 20) Chump Man Blues; 21) Ice Man Blues; 22) Police Dog Blues; 23) I Was Afraid Of That Pt. 2; 24) Georgia Bound; 25) Keep It Home.

Vol. 3 of Blind Blake's starts out rather inauspiciously, with a couple of fairly bland Elzadie Ro­binson urban blues tunes which are then followed with lotsa lotsa slow blues, most of them with hi­deous sound quality that prevents from discerning any tricks and flourishes even if Blake actu­ally had them on these tracks — and I am quite unsure of that. (He gets particularly lazy on tracks like ʽSearch Warrant Bluesʼ, whose recording session must have caught him in an utterly un­in­spired state, or an utterly inebriated one). These six or seven slow blues laments are really only noticeable for the lyrics, which have been occasionally accused of excessive (even for the times) misogyny ("to keep her quiet, I knocked her teeth out her mouth" etc.). But since Blake hardly ever comes across as a pathological character, we should still ascribe these bleak feelings to then-current conventions. Good old happy times, when «bitch-slapping» was the norm and nobody wanted to be left out of the fun.

The real fun — musical fun — starts only on the eleventh number (ʽSweet Papa Low Downʼ), the first feel-good number on the CD, and Blind Blake's fingers only really worked wonders when they were feeling good: here be a nifty little Charleston with some cornet and xylophone accom­paniment, and Blake himself happily mumbling and dee-daa-daaing under his nose as he spins his tricky ragtime chords.

From there, as we move on to 1929 and the last months of nationwide happiness, it is all steadily uphill once again: ʽHookworm Bluesʼ, with a funny guitar/piano soloing duet; ʽSlippery Ragʼ, which is anything but slippery — in fact, it features some of Blake's most complex soloing; and, most importantly, ʽDiddie Wah Diddieʼ, one of his signature tunes (nothing to do with the much later Bo Diddley song of the same name) that introduced the line "I wish somebody could tell me what diddie wah diddie means" into popular culture.

Best of the lot is concealed at the end: ʽGeorgia Boundʼ, also done in a ragtime tuning, recorded with a rare degree of cleanness, sung with an unexpected sweet natural tenderness, and bursting into diverse, but always optimistic solo melodies after each verse. The melody may be well known from a million other performances (it is exactly the same as Robert Johnson's ʽFrom Four Until Lateʼ), but, with Blake at the helm, a good melody will always bear individual traces, re­gardless of how well we know it. If you do not play guitar, these sounds may well taunt you into trying — and if you do, you might as well quit, because you'll never beat this kind of sound, no matter how technically simple it might seem to the modern player. Thumbs up.


  1. 1) Why would you think that the Arthur Blake death certificate was a coincidence? Didn't you look at the death certificate, coroner's report, and Chicago Defender reference that led to the discovery (all available on the web)? If you weren't interested enough to do that, why make a snarky comment on something you had so little information about?
    2) It would have been nice if you had made it clear to the legions of RJ-worshippers that Blake's recording of the tune in Georgia Rag predated Four Until Late, not vice versa.

  2. Sorry, meant to say "Georgia Bound." However, I'm sure that you understand my point about establishing the fact that Blake had been dead for several years before Johnson even began to record.