Roosevelt Sykes

Music Is My Business

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A barrelhouse piano player whose approach to the blues was full of drive, bounce, and joy, Roosevelt Sykes recorded his signature tune, Lee Green's "44 Blues," at his debut studio date in 1929, which had been arranged for him by St. Louis record shop owner Jesse Johnson. Sykes never looked back, practicing his own brand of joyous boogie piano while spanning the pre- and post-war generations, and he enjoyed a remarkable surge in popularity late in his career, touring the music festivals on several continents and releasing albums. This set, which has been released countless times on several different labels, including Blues Alliance, Blue Labor, Tomato, and Rhino, and now on Fat Possum, was recorded at a session on September 17, 1975, with guitarists Johnny Shines and Louisiana Red, and the harmonica-playing Sugar Blue to help out on some of the tracks. The results, in all honesty, are mixed, but as an example of what it means to put some veteran blues musicians together and cut an album in one day, it's a minor little archival gem. Sykes, unlike many artists, was always best solo, and there are several solo tracks here, all full of the bouncing, buoyant piano playing that made Sykes one of a kind. In the end, it's a fun and interesting set, wherever one picks it up.

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