BLIND WILLIE McTELL: LAST SESSION (1956; 1961)
1) Baby, It Must Be Love; 2) The Dying Crapshooter's Blues; 3) Don't Forget It; 4) Kill It Kid; 5) That Will Never Happen No More; 6) Goodbye Blues; 7) Salty Dog; 8) Early Life; 9) Beedle Um Bum; 10) A Married Man's A Fool; 11) A To Z Blues; 12) Wabash Cannonball; 13) Pal Of Mine.
Blind Willie died of a stroke in 1959, after having served a couple years as preacher in one of Atlanta's churches; so we are rather lucky to have this disc, the results of a homebrewn session recorded in the home of an Atlanta record store manager in 1956. Long out of favor with record studios, Willie seems to have been simply playing on street corners, when he got this last chance to leave another trace of himself for mankind — captured on a simple tape recorder, but in surprisingly good quality (the store manager must have been a good technician). Even more surprising is that Willie himself was in pretty good quality on that day: there is hardly a moment during these thirty minutes where you'd get the impression of wallowing in unsurmountable misery.
In fact, I'd even go as far as notice that even his voice is in slightly better shape than it is on the 1949 recordings: it reflects the expected age-caused deepening / lowering, but there are no shades of hoarseness whatsoever — and he definitely does not sound like a fifty-eight year old here, bent with age, worries, alcoholism, and public rejection.
This might be the only reason why one would want to take a listen to this Last Session: most of the songs are either re-recordings of earlier stuff, or sound close enough to the early stuff to be interpreted as re-recordings. Interestingly, he concentrates here mostly on uptempo dance or «joke» numbers — except for ʽDyin' Crapshooter Bluesʼ, preceded by a long story about how the writing of the song was based on real life events, and the melancholic blues sermon of ʽA Married Man's A Foolʼ, almost everything else is in the jiggly-funny way of things, and that's good — we have concentrated on old bluesmen singing about their troubles way too much to properly notice the other side of the mirror.
So, overall, this album does not make much sense or bring on much enjoyment outside the context, but it is an extremely important last chapter in the story of the life of one William Samuel McTier, who did not quite live such a life of bluesy mystery as Bob Dylan would have one believe, but whose real life and achievements, once you contrast them with the life and achievements of his peers, might actually seem all the more intriguing by their relative lack of intrigue. The man led a decent, quiet life with a well-balanced ratio of joy and sadness where joy would always be coming out on top in the end. Hell of a healthy attitude, I'd say.
Check "Last Session" (MP3) on Amazon