Sam Carr / Frank Frost

The Last of the Jelly Roll Kings

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Guitarist and harmonica player Frank Frost was essentially an Arkansas version of Jimmy Reed when he hooked up with drummer Sam Carr in the early '50s. Carr, the son of bluesman Robert Nighthawk, and Frost worked in Nighthawk's band for several years before striking out as a duo in the early '60s, and when they added guitar player and bassist Jack Johnson in 1962, they became the Jelly Roll Kings (although they wouldn't use the name for a couple of years yet). Working the Reed side of the street with a distinct Mississippi juke-joint feel, the Kings recorded for the Sun, Jewel, and Earwig labels before Johnson left in the late '80s -- the original trio reunited in 1997 for Fat Possum's Off Yonders Wall -- after which Frost and Carr began working with an ever-rotating cast of guitarists, one of whom was Fred James. James ran tape on the Kings in Helena, AR, in 1998 for an album that was eventually released as The Jelly Roll Kings on Hightone Records a year later in 1999. James also released on his own R.O.A.D. Records a live Jelly Roll Kings set recorded by a Swiss radio crew at the 1993 Lucerne Blues Festival. This collection is made up of outtakes and alternates from the Helena sessions (the first ten tracks) and a few stray songs from the Lucerne gig (the last five tracks). There are no real surprises, since with the Kings what you got was what you got, and that generally meant no-frills Southern juke-joint jams with plenty of harp breaks from Frost. Highlights here include the lead track, "Better Take It Slow," the spunky "Done with You," and the majestic and ragged "St. Louis Serenade."

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