Various Artists

I'm Going Where the Water Drinks Like Wine: 18 Unsung Bluesmen Rarities 1923-1929

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The recorded history of the blues started in the early 1920s, and for every Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, or Blind Lemon Jefferson who attracted the attention of blues scholars and collectors four decades later, there were scores of other blues players who tracked 78s back then and promptly vanished into the smoky haze of the Great Depression, never to be heard from again, shadowy enigmas whose only footprints are those old, scratchy, and banged-up discs they left behind. This interesting set collects some of those blues ghosts, and while names like Bo Weavil Jackson or Willie Blind Joe Reynolds will hardly stir any trace of recognition outside of the small world of blues research, they nonetheless had a guitar and something to say, even if it was full of cliché and recorded on the run in a parlor or empty hall rented for the occasion. Not everything here is a timeless masterpiece, but there are some gems, including Rabbit Brown’s harrowing “James Alley Blues” (which was included in record collector Harry Smith’s famous anthology), and the first known instance of slide guitar on record, Sylvester Weaver’s “Guitar Blues” from 1923. This might not be the best place to start to learn about the old country blues, but then again, it might be. The world can be cruel and cares little about fame, fortune, or handing out places in history, but thanks to those old 78s, we still have the voices of many who left nothing else but a guitar riff and a blues line behind. They vanished into the mists of time after making these recordings, but they still knew what the blues was, and they had their say.

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