Various Artists

Red River Blues

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Recorded between the mid-'50s and mid-'60s, most of this electric blues and R&B was laid down at Mira Smith's studio in Shreveport, LA, appearing on tiny labels like Ram, Jo, Clif, Speed, and Red River; a dozen of the tracks were previously unreleased. This is pretty tenuous ground for a compilation, and it should be pointed out that Smith also recorded some other styles in her studio that are not represented here; also, the disc is filled out by five cuts done elsewhere in Shreveport by Jesse Thomas in the early '60s. Nonetheless, it's a pretty fair collection of early electric Louisiana blues, TV Slim the only name likely to evince even faint recognition from most collectors. Yes, there are four cuts by Sonny Boy Williamson, but this not John Lee (Sonny Boy I) or Rice Miller (Sonny Boy II) Williamson; it is, hilariously, Jeff "Sonny Boy" Williamson, yet another harmonica-playing guy using the name. He's actually one of the better performers here, although his music is derivative, with flashes of Fats Domino and Bo Diddley here and there. New Orleans R&B, indeed, is a substantial influence on several of the cuts, and the swampy Excello-released blues of Slim Harpo and the like can also be heard from time to time. TV Slim, by contrast, does primitively recorded (even by mid-'50s standards) blues-boogie on his 1955 Speed single, as well as the original version of the rockabilly blues "Flat Foot Sam" (later recut for Chess in New Orleans). Talk about lo-fi: Chico Chism's "Romp & Stomp" instrumental sounds like it was recorded from the opposite end of a school hall. Jesse Thomas finishes things off with some pretty classy, urbane blues which sound a little like early B.B. King.

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