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Monday, March 10, 2014

Buddy Moss: Atlanta Blues Legend


1) Hurry Home; 2) Red River; 3) Pushin' It; 4) Comin' Back; 5) How I Feel Today; 6) That'll Never Happen No More; 7) Oh Lawdy Mama; 8) I'm Sitting On Top Of The World; 9) Kansas City; 10) It Was The Weary Hour Night; 11) Chesterfield; 12) I've Got To Keep To The Highway; 13) Come On Around To My House; 14) Step It Up And Go; 15) Everyday Seems Like Sunday; 16) I Got A Woman, Don't Mean Me No Good; 17) Betty And Dupree; 18) Every Day, Every Day.

Like many other fellow bluesmen, Buddy Moss was rediscovered and dragged out into the lime­light in the 1960s, in the middle of the new «blues boom» that hit both sides of the Atlantic. Due to his natural humility and shyness, though, he was never able to capitalize on the rediscovery — never made it over to England, where he could have easily claimed hero status; his live ap­pea­rances at festivals were few and far in between; and his new recorded output was quite slim com­pared to, say, Big Bill Broonzy or the commercially successful duo of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. But he probably didn't mind — according to some sources, he seems to have been drawn into the whole revival thing entirely by accident (upon having been seen by some blues fans backstage after a Josh White show).

This record was originally released in 1967 and contained a large portion of Buddy's live appea­rance at a Washington, D. C. concert in June 1966; the CD issue expanded it with a bunch of ex­tra tracks that Moss recorded for Columbia in Nashville around the same time — those, however, remained unreleased for about thirty years. On the studio tracks, Buddy plays and sings almost entirely by himself, with only Jeff Espina on harmonica to accompany the guitar; for the Washin­gton show, they are further joined by John Jackson on second guitar.

As it usually happens with these revivals, there is some overlap with the old stuff, but not a huge lot: audiences were expecting to hear «popular» blues songs rather than obscurities, so that Buddy adds stuff like ʽStep It Up And Goʼ to his repertoire which he never got around to recording in the pre-war era (but Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee both did), or even ʽEvery Day (I Have The Blues)ʼ, a song that was first recorded by Pinetop Sparks in 1935, but which most people in the 1950s and 1960s probably associated with B. B. King. However, this is no reason to complain — on the contrary, it is very good to hear the old guy «forced» to expand his horizons, combining revised versions of his old classics (ʽLawdy Mamaʼ etc.) with stuff that he heard from others, or maybe even played in the old days, but never got around to record.

I will not comment on the individual tracks, since doing so requires a much deeper understanding of the basics of acoustic blues than I have, but the overall gut feeling is that thirty years of un­involvement in the musical business had a negative influence on the man's fingers (the playing is just a wee bit «sloppier» and less focused than its used to be), but a positive influence on the man's mind — instead of relying largely on stock phrasing, he takes plenty of opportunities to explore, find additional tricks, make the guitar chirp, squeak, and chime whenever possible. Even on the studio outtakes, the tracks sometimes run over four minutes, and several of the concert numbers run over five — meaning that the man had found freedom from the technical require­ments of the three-minute single and that he intended to use it. His singing, unfortunately, had declined due to aging, but that is not a big problem: Buddy was always a competent, never an outstanding vocalist, and «competent» ones get extra bonuses as they age.

Given that, out of everything that Buddy recorded and released in his «comeback» era (not much altogether), this is the most easily available package, it is highly recommendable — sound quality is very decent (the Washington concert is almost entirely free from audience noises, with every­one sitting very quietly, just an occasional snicker or two at Buddy's occasional in-between-lines jokes), relative diversity (12-bar blues, ragtime blues, jump blues, folk, etc.) is guaranteed, «blues authenticity» is indisputable; thumbs up without question. But, of course, if you want to properly «relive history», without relying exclusively on nostalgic product, check out the crackling oldies as well — Atlanta Blues Legend lays a heavy emphasis on the «legend» bit, and it will always be only a substitute for «the real thing».

Check "Atlanta Blues Legend" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Atlanta Blues Legend" (MP3) on Amazon

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