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Monday, March 3, 2014

Buddy Moss: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 3


1) Gravy Server; 2) Going To Your Funeral In A V8 Ford; 3) My Baby Won't Pay Me No Mind; 4) Undertaker Blues; 5) Oh Lordy Mama No. 2; 6) Worrysome Woman; 7) Your Hard Head Will Bring You Sorrow Some Day; 8) Can't Use You No More; 9) See What You Done Done; 10) Stop Hanging Around; 11) On My Way; 12) How About You; 13) Talking About My Time; 14) You Got To Give Me Some Of It; 15) Mistreated Boy; 16) You Need A Woman; 17) Joy Rag; 18) Little Angel Blues; 19) Struggle Buggie; 20) I'm Sittin' Here Tonight; 21) Baby You're The One For Me; 22) Unfinished Business.

By mid-1935, it sort of seemed that nothing could seriously threaten or derail Buddy's career — Depression factors were not harming modest, but steady sales, and in an attempt to revitalize the formula, Buddy got himself a new partner: the "Singing Christian" Josh White (also known as Pinewood Tom), who was actually more of a guitar player than singer before gangrene ate up his left hand in 1936. The bulk of the tracks on this third volume consists of material that Buddy and Josh recorded together: usually, White merely supplies second guitar, but some of the tracks are sympathetic gospel duets, well in the tradition of Blind Willie Johnson (ʽHow About Youʼ), or folksy dance numbers (ʽYou Got To Give Me Some Of Itʼ), and this gives Buddy an opportunity to try his hand at something other than straightforward 12-bar blues. The best of these numbers, however, is ʽOn My Wayʼ, on which Buddy wrings a juicy slide tone out of his guitar; unfortu­nately, the only solo is in the brief introduction.

Unfortunately, in 1936 Buddy Moss happened to shoot and kill his wife — or, at least, so said the jury, leading to a life sentence in prison; knowledgeable people sometimes insist that guilt was never proven beyond reasonable doubt and that the sentence was racially biased, but whatever be the case, the sentence broke up a promising career that was almost on the verge of becoming minimally diverse. Josh White went his own way, and Buddy lingered in prison for five years be­fore his old record labels finally secured parole for their former star (hard to believe, yes, but there was a time when people at Columbia would be willing to bribe parole boards in order to help out their has-beens whose further commercial viability was quite under question).

The newly released Buddy, however, arrived back in the studio right on the brink of war, and with restrictions on shellac use coming into effect, only had time for one more session — held in October 1941 with such illustrious friends as Brownie McGhee on guitar and piano, and Sonny Terry on har­monica. With a small and well-qualified band behind his back, this last seven-song section is the liveliest part of the record, and Buddy is in great spirit, whether churning out energetic «proto-rock'n'roll» (ʽJoy Ragʼ, ʽStruggle Buggieʼ), more old-fashioned ragtime dance blues (ʽI'm Sittin' Here Tonightʼ) or the old 12-bar material (ʽYou Need A Womanʼ).

And then it was all over in a flash: shellac restrictions, loss of contract, waning of interest in country blues, oblivion, the whole package, for more than twenty years. To be perfectly frank, Buddy never really stood a chance like, say, Big Bill Broonzy — his style was much more rigid, «academic» (crude, but working, epithet), and not particularly appealing to mass audiences. Big Bill usually sounded like he cared, first and foremost, about giving the listener a good time: Bud­dy was more about expressing his love for country blues, which was far more abundant in his own heart than in the hearts of his listeners (myself included, frankly speaking), and seems to have had relatively little concern for showmanship — never a useful thing in a competitive en­vironment, regardless of all the honesty/integrity that goes along with it. Anyway, bottomline is: these three volumes of Buddy's recordings from the 1930s are actually well worth sitting through, one by one, if you feel a deep affinity for this sort of music — and even if you do not, they work totally fine as a classy background tapestry of fine acoustic blues playing.

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