Various Artists

Wolf Records 20th Anniversary Collection

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There's no doubting the quality of blues that Wolf Records has been releasing over the last two decades; what this collection shows is its breadth. From the Delta stylings of Son House, with a superb take on "My Black Mama," to the easier, West Coast feel of Charles Brown, the raw Chicago pump of Muddy Waters on "Hoochie Coochie Man," and even as far as British blues, in the person of Dana Gillespie, the label has indeed covered the waterfront. In addition to the big names, they've also showcased some lesser-known (but equally talented) performers like John Primer and Larry Garner who deserve a wider hearing, certainly on the basis of the tracks included here. Louisiana guitar whiz Garner might be from a younger generation, but the roots of his blues still run deep. Still, it's impossible to deny the power of the old masters -- or even mistresses, as Memphis Minnie is superbly featured on "Hold Me Blues" -- like Roosevelt Sykes, whose piano style was always unmistakable, while the late Hound Dog Taylor lets his wild slide style loose on the classic "Dust My Broom." In many ways, this stands as more than a birthday party for a label, it's almost a primer on the development of the blues -- and for a label to be able to do that shows just how good they are.

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