Josh White went through so many different phases and sounds in his career, that he was virtually a musical chameleon, adapting easily to whatever audiences expected of him in any given decade. Still, the "big band"-style blues embodied on these 1956-vintage recordings may surprise those who only know White from his acoustic sides cut during the folk revival of the later 1950s and early 1960s. His voice -- still an excellent instrument in its own right two decades into his recording career -- and acoustic guitar mesh nicely with a sextet consisting of Jack Fallon (bass), Phil Seamen (drums), Bertie King (alto sax), Fred Hartz (tenor sax), Benny Green (baritone sax), and Kenny Baker (trumpet), on "Kansas City Blues." White gets to show off his skill as a slide guitarist on stripped-down pieces such as "Careless Love" -- a nearly six-minute long acoustic blues showcase -- and his vocal range on the lusty "Oh Lula," and gives a fresh take on "St. Louis Blues," White's guitar and Seamen's drums interweaving rhythmic patterns around his exuberant vocals. This triple-disc set (the other albums represented are Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee's Sonny, Brownie & Chris and Big Bill Broonzy's Tribute to Big Bill) offers about the best sound ever heard on these songs, and the annotation by Neil Slaven is as detailed as one might ever hope for.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder