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Monday, April 16, 2012

Blind Boy Fuller: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 2 (1936-1937)


1) Cat Man Blues (take 2); 2) When Your Gal Packs Up And Leaves; 3) Mama, Let Me Lay It On You; 4) If You Don't Give Me What I Want; 5) Boots And Shoes; 6) Truckin' My Blues Away No. 2 (take 1); 7) Truckin' My Blues Away No. 2 (take 2); 8) Sweet Honey Hole; 9) Untrue Blues; 10) Tom Cat Blues; 11) My Baby Don't Mean Me No Good; 12) Been Your Dog; 13) My Best Gal Gonna Leave Me; 14) Wires All Down; 15) Let Me Squeeze Your Le­mon; 16) Death Alley; 17) Mamie (take 1); 18) Mamie (take 2); 19) New Oh Red!; 20) If You See My Pigmeat; 21) Stingy Mama; 22) Why Don't My Baby Write To Me; 23) Some Day You're Gonna Be Sorry; 24) You Never Can Tell.

Fulton Allen was so thoroughly consistent in his lifetime that it is a fairly hard task finding even one «standout» track among the output he recorded in between April 29, 1936 and July 12, 1937. Well, actually there is ʽMama, Let Me Lay It On Youʼ, which, if I am not mistaken (and it is very easy to make a mistake in this slippery who-made-who business), is either the first or one of the very first recordings of what would later become ʽBaby Let Me Follow You Downʼ and be popu­larized for all the white guys by Dylan and the Animals. In all honesty, it is essentially but a slow­ed down, mildly sentimentalized variant of Blind Boy's ragtime blues — but at least it's a slightly different melody, which is more than can usually be expected.

Other than that, Fuller is recording even more versions of ʽTruckin' My Blues Awayʼ; continuing to revel in double entendres with titles like ʽLet Me Squeeze Your Lemonʼ and, particularly, ʽIf You See My Pigmeatʼ (yes, «pigmeat» is an endearing term reserved by the author for his sweet­heart — what a life, eh?); and, for some reason, concentrates almost exclusively on slow or mid-tempo blues — upbeat dance tunes are limited to just ʽIf You Don't Give Me What I Wantʼ and the new revision of ʽTruckinʼ: hilarious scat singing on both of them, but just two upbeat tunes over one year? Were the times too hard, or was re-recording the exact same melody more than three times in a row a bit unnerving even for the artist himself?

In the end, the most interesting song of the lot is probably ʽNew Oh Red!ʼ: the «old» one was re­corded in the same year by the Harlem Hamfats, but it is even more fun to see Blind Boy Fuller try to take on this jazz-pop number, considering that this playing style had not been his personal cup of tea at all. He rises to the challenge admirably, coming up with one of the most «rocking» numbers in his catalog. Strange enough, he did not go on to re-record it under fifteen different titles — maybe the Hamfats bribed him to stay away from their material. Instead, he just went on to play more 12-bar blues: the last three or four tracks here are melodically indistinguishable from contemporary Robert Johnson material (even if the playing styles are, of course, wildly different). However, his technique is still complex, diverse, fluent, and self-assured enough to make sitting through bits and pie­ces of this stuff easy and pleasant — something I couldn't exactly say about, say, Arthur Crudup (who, however, had the advantage of a creakier, whinier, otherworldlier voice than Blind Boy Fuller's amicably ordinary one).

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