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Monday, April 30, 2012

Blind Boy Fuller: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 4 (1937-1938)


1) Shaggy Like A Bear; 2) Ten O'Clock Peeper; 3) Hungry Calf Blues; 4) Too Many Women Blues; 5) Oozin' You Off My Mind; 6) Shake That Shimmy; 7) Heart Ease Blues; 8) I'm Going To Move (To The Edge Of Town); 9) Pis­tol Slapper Blues; 10) Mean And No Good Woman; 11) Georgia Ham Mama; 12) Piccolo Rag; 13) Funny Feeling Blues; 14) Painful Hearted Man; 15) You've Got To Move It Out; 16) Mama, Let Me Lay It On You No. 2; 17) Meat Shakin' Woman; 18) I'm A Good Stem Winder; 19) What's That Smells Like Fish; 20) She's A Truckin' Little Baby; 21) Jivin' Woman Blues; 22) You're Laughing Now.

Man, was Blind Boy Fuller ever in demand in 1938!... sorry. Right until the unfortunate moment when he shot his wife in the leg — apparently, the «Meat Shakin' Woman» refused to believe that he was really such «A Good Stem Winder» and maliciously avoided a direct answer to the ques­tion «What's That Smells Like Fish». Which meant that Blind Boy eventually had to «Move (To The Edge Of Town)» and halt his recording activities until 1940. But not before recording a cou­p­le dozen more unique, unrepeatable examples of his songwriting craft.

Vol. 4 has lots more songs that Fuller recorded with Sonny Terry, as well as accompanied by a se­cond guitarist (Dipper Boy Council), which predictably gives us a fuller, but not necessarily better sound. Occasional progress is seen in that two subsequent takes on the exact same melody may now feature different sets of lyrics — for instance, ʽShake That Shimmyʼ and ʽHeart Ease Bluesʼ are still the same song, but you couldn't genuinely tell that by simply looking at the lyrics sheet. (Not that there's any available — not that it's a big problem, either).

Only one song on the whole volume deserves special mention, especially because, for some rea­son, not every single-CD Blind Boy Fuller compilation includes it, even though they all should. This is ʽJivin' Woman Bluesʼ, a very different example of ragtime guitar playing than everything Fuller had played up to that point, with a slower tempo, a more bluegrassy feel, and a complex, but catchy picking pattern, echoes of which you could eventually hear on Fleetwood Mac's ʽNe­ver Going Back Againʼ (with plenty of buffers along the way, of course).

Minor «experiments» can also be heard on ʽMeat Shakin' Womanʼ and maybe one or two other numbers that passed me by, but you'd really need an aural magnifying glass to concentrate on that. Which makes the time scale of Vol. 4 Blind Boy's most skippable period so far. It does, however, seem to feature an exceedingly large number of double entendres — if you ever thought it was up to rockers to invent the «popularity booster through excessive profanity», here's living proof that «sleazing up» your music was a well-oiled technique before the war. Question: How do you sell more copies of your song called ʽLog Cabin Bluesʼ? Answer: Re-record it under the title ʽWhat's That Smells Like Fishʼ. Do not overestimate the decency of the average record buyer.

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