Various Artists

Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story

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Bluestime is not a storied label, not in the way Sun and Chess are. An offshoot of ABC, Bluestime launched in 1969 and the intent of the imprint was to take old bluesmen and freshen them up for the new decade, usually by placing them in a setting where long, jazzy improvisations were encouraged. Apart from a live version of "Hound Dog" from Big Mama Thornton, every one of the 15 tracks showcased on this 2013 collection were released between 1969 and 1970, most of them in 1970. To get an idea of how thoroughly of its time this music is, T-Bone Walker performs a tribute to B.B. King and also covers the man's "Every Day I Have the Blues," while Big Joe Turner sings a song about plastic man. The decades have washed away the commercialism of these moves and have left behind funky, almost jazzy vamps on cuts that rarely stretch longer than four minutes (although the 14 minutes of the Super Black Blues Band and the ten minutes of Turner surely do leave an impression) but often feel like they do, because the concentration is not on the song but the groove. It's hard to argue that any of these acts are at a peak, and yet hearing Walker, Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson," Otis Spann, and Harmonica Slim in a different setting, happy to tackle their times, is pretty engaging and makes this worthwhile hearing. Maybe it doesn't completely rehabilitate this awkward era, but it does suggest the elongated jams had more to savor than initially met the ear.

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