Various Artists

Living The Blues: Blues Roots 1930-1944 [Time-Life]

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Living the Blues: Blues Roots 1930-1944 was among the earlier blues compilations to be mastered in High-Definition sound, which, along with some judicious selections for its 20 songs, makes it a handy sampler for the 14-year period that it covers -- of course, not even five fully-loaded CDs could give a real profile of the music; absent are Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Mississippi John Hurt, Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, and Blind Willie McTell, to name just a few who aren't here, and McTell's and Hurt's libraries are controlled by Sony Music, which produced this disc for Time-Life. On the other hand, everybody here is a major name, many of them (such as Sonny Boy Williamson I and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup) from far beyond the Sony/Columbia libraries. The sound is good on this disc, within the limits of the existing masters, and some masters have clearly been treated better than others in the past decade -- the Robert Johnson "Cross Road Blues" has been the object (with the rest of Johnson's output) of a massive upgrade and remastering effort, while other parts of this catalog have not; but "Cross and Evil Woman Blues" by Blind Gary (aka the Rev. Gary Davis) transcends any limitations of sound. The annotation is fine as far as it goes, but at its best this is no better than a good quality sampler, and should be on a shelf with at least a half-dozen other complementary releases.