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Monday, May 15, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: Sings The Blues


1) Me And My Mule; 2) The Blues Got Me Rockin'; 3) That's My Pa; 4) Tongue-Tied Blues; 5) Sharp Harp; 6) Blues For Everybody; 7) Camille; 8) Walkin' Upside Your Head; 9) Harelip Blues; 10) Big Leg Emma's; 11) Two Below Zero; 12) Silent Partner; 13) Mail Order Woman; 14) Stumbling Block; 15) Failing Health Blues; 16) She Cooks Me Cabbage.

This one is not from Copenhagen: it is an American compilation that, if I understand correctly, largely consists of singles recorded by the Champion for the King label in the mid-to-late 1950s. All I know about it is the track listing, the date of release, and the gushing, but hardly informative liner notes on the back sleeve, so even though most of these tracks feature Dupree with a small backing band, I have no idea who is playing what and whether you should by all means grab this because of a unique guest appearance by some unique blues hero.

Still, it's worth owning or hearing at least for ʽMe And My Muleʼ, a comic piece of one-sided dialog between Dupree and his trusty pack animal on which the man barely plays his instrument, ceding it all to bass and harmonica — the former mimicking the animal's lazy trudge, the latter imitating its hee-hawing. It is not so much hilarious as it is «authentic», cementing Dupree's status as The Everyman's Bluesman, a teller of routine stories of realistic daily troubles, usually invented on the spot. And it is certainly more impressive than Dupree's Muddy Waters tributes such as ʽMail Order Womanʼ, most of which sound like flimsy shadows of far superior originals.

Minor highlights on this collection would include ʽStumbling Blockʼ, a simplified, «untwisted» variation on ʽRollin' And Tumblin'ʼ with a steady beat and a cool echoey guitar part (Dupree does not play any piano on this one); the instrumental ʽSharp Harpʼ, more of a showcase for George "Harmonica" Smith than for the Champion — if you like Little Walter, George Smith's playing is in quite a similar style; and the mock-your-local-disability-today number ʽHarelip Bluesʼ, with an artificially enhanced speech impediment (apparently, Dupree used to present himself as harelip­ped which he really was not, but it helped attract extra customers; he did come out with some ridiculously bad accents, though). A few other tracks have nice slide guitar parts, for instance, ʽShe Cooks Me Cabbageʼ — there's some Elmore James-level chops there, even though the lead guitarist never gets a chance to solo; that, however, is just about it.

Apparently, there are more complete packages that cover Dupree's mid-to-late Fifties career in the States (prior to Blues In The Gutter), but, naturally, only a diehard blues completist should be seeking them out, and only after having exhausted the hard-to-exhaust pool of Chicago blues recordings from the same period.

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