Lightnin' Slim

King of the Swamp Blues 1954-61

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AllMusic Review by

Lightnin' Slim true believers will want to take the extra time to search for this one. It's a 20-track collection that brings together a rash of alternate takes, previously unissued sides, studio warm-ups, and the like, all recorded by producer Jay Miller between 1954 and 1961. This is no bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings; Slim's outtakes can sometimes be better than some of the later sides released on Excello. Listeners are treated to an unreleased track from what is believed to be Slim's audition for Miller, a bare-bones reading of Jimmy Rogers' "That's All Right." One of the few examples of Slim recording without a supporting harmonica, the starkness of his guitar and vocal against the rudimentary drums of disc jockey Ray "Diggy Doo" Meaders makes this the track that fans of the lowdown will enthusiastically embrace. Another unreleased song from the same tape is an original, "Love Me for Myself," which features Lightnin's guitar front and center doing rare fills in the upper register between vocal lines. Several more sides emanate from these first sessions in 1954, including a wobbly tape reel alternate of his first record, "Bad Luck," and Slim in support of harmonica ace Wild Bill Phillips. Phillips' amplified harp tone is huge and distorted on the rocking "Paper in My Shoe" and Slim encores the same supporting role behind Schoolboy Cleve on three tracks. Five alternate takes illustrate how Miller and the artists shaped material for release in his Crowley, LA, studio, but mavens of unreleased material will revel in the studio warm-up of "Don't Mistreat Me" where Slim breaks a guitar string in mid-song and starts cussing out his guitar. Certainly not the place to start with this artist, but an interesting addition to his recorded legacy that hardcore fans will definitely want to pick up.