BO CARTER: COMPLETE RECORDED WORKS, VOL. 2 (1931-1934)
1) So Long, Baby, So Long; 2) The Law Gonna Step On You; 3) Pig Meat Is What I Crave; 4) Howling Tom Cat Blues; 5) Ants In My Pants; 6) Blue Runner Blues; 7) I've Got A Case Of Mashin' It; 8) You Don't Love Me No More; 9) What Kind Of Scent Is This; 10) Pretty Baby; 11) I Want You To Know; 12) Last Go Round; 13) I Keep On Spending My Change; 14) Baby, How Can It Be?; 15) Bo Carter Special; 16) Beans; 17) Nobody's Business; 18) Queen Bee; 19) Tellin' You 'Bout It; 20) Please Don't Drive Me From Your Door; 21) Pin In Your Cushion; 22) Banana In The Fruit Basket.
This and the following reviews are going to be quite short, because, frankly, once you've heard one Bo Carter song — okay, two — all right, three — you've heard three Bo Carter songs, and you'd have to be a seriously obsessed person to crave for more Bo Carter material with the same force that he keeps craving for more pig meat (and we all know the deep metaphor underlying «pig meat»... unless this is really subtle anti-Semitic propaganda, hiding under a veil of sexual urges. Makes one want to check out if Bo ever was on Henry Ford's payroll. Alternatively, ʽPig Meat Is What I Craveʼ would be a great title for a hardcore punk album).
One couldn't accuse Bo of a complete lack of creativity: for instance, it takes a wicked sense of humor to take ʽSittin' On Top Of The Worldʼ and transform it into a song called ʽAnts In My Pantsʼ. And once you get around to his remake of the ragtime classic ʽLog Cabin Bluesʼ, here retitled as ʽBeansʼ and featuring such lyrics as "I don't want no more navy beans / Boys I don't want no more / I don't want no more navy beans / They're 'bout to make my stomach sore / I ate them last night / And the night before / When I got through, I couldn't shut my door", Mr. Bo Carter suddenly emerges as the Weird Al Yankovic of his generation — except that, unlike Weird Al, Bo is rarely mentioned as a «parodist» in blues histories.
But that is really what he is, and this is why his lyrical, plaintive, serious side (ʽSo Long, Baby, So Longʼ; ʽYou Don't Love Me No Moreʼ) is never as interesting as his goofy, risqué side, which lets you in on a wholly different meaning for the word «broadcast» (ʽBo Carter Specialʼ – "Bo Carter is a man, he broadcasts all over this land... when I get to use my broadcaster, it goes all round and round, and the women receiving are sure to put their men down"), or sets you a-thinkin' on the intricacies of female anatomy (ʽWhat Kind Of Scent Is Thisʼ) less explicitly, but arguably more productively, than any given textbook on the subject.
From a pure musical standpoint, the best numbers here are guitar-fiddle duets with Papa Charlie: ʽTellin' You 'Bout Itʼ, ʽQueen Beeʼ, and a couple others — I would say that Bo was a better team player than solo artist, and hearing his simple, but steady 12-bar picking serving as base for Charlie's inventive runs and flourishes is a mini-delight. Unfortunately, most of the 1931-1934 tracks are solo efforts, and are generally only as good as the lyrics are (and by «good» I, of course, mean «salacious»). A couple of them are also in awful sound quality (ʽI Want You To Knowʼ is played at about twice less the volume than the other songs, for instance), although that is not the general rule. Overall, Vol. 2 is a notch below Vol. 1 — simply not enough elegant fiddle duets or dirty macho jokes to properly stand the competition.