Spirit

Blues from the Soul

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This is the third in a series of posthumous albums of previously unreleased recordings by Randy California and Spirit, drawn from California's archives and assembled by Mick Skidmore. As Skidmore explains in his detailed liner notes, California put together an album called Blues From the Soul around 1995, and even copyrighted its contents; but later opted to use some of the material on the final album he released with Spirit, California Blues, prior to his accidental death by drowning in January 1997. Other tracks from the proposed album were culled for the first posthumous release, Cosmic Smile. Skidmore has included all 13 of the songs California had intended to use on his version of Blues From the Soul, though he has substituted alternate takes or live recordings of tracks already issued. Of course, the album also has been vastly expanded to include 35 selections for a running time of two-and-a-half hours. But the basic concept remains the same, and that is to present a collection of folk and blues recordings. California's family owned The Ash Grove nightclub when he was a child, and that brought him into contact with the many veteran acoustic blues musicians who toured during the folk revival of the early 1960s. Their influence on him is apparent here, as he resurrects songs by Mance Lipscomb, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Blind Willie Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, and Howlin' Wolf. Many songs are done with an acoustic guitar, but they all feature California's distinctive playing and singing. The lengthy set allows room for other material, including a 24-minute improvisation, "Down and Dirty Blues." Skidmore is less concerned with strictly adhering to the album's concept than he is to giving listeners more of California's music, and it's hard to argue with that.

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