Tommy McClennan

1939-1940 Whiskey Head Woman, Vol. 1

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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

Tommy McClennan recorded his entire output, some 40 tracks in all, for Bluebird Records between 1939 and 1942, before wandering off the blues stage forever, supposedly dismissed by Bluebird because of his drinking problems. With his hoarse, shouted vocals, often with spoken asides, and rudimentary guitar style, McClennan worked from an intriguing but limited palette, and his work is best sampled in two- or three-song doses. Still, the diminutive singer managed to turn out a handful of country blues classics, including "New Shake Em On Down," "Bottle It Up and Go," and his signature tune, "Whiskey Head Woman," all of which are included here. So is "Whiskey Head Man," which simply changes gender and uses the exact same arrangement and phrasing as "Whiskey Head Woman." In a genre known for recycling guitar runs and rhymed couplets, McClennan takes it a step further and recycles his own songs in only slightly different guises, making him somewhat of a one-trick pony. By the second volume of Document's two-disc series of his recordings, it is obvious that McClennan had run out of ideas. This first volume is the one to get, then, because the tracks seem just a bit fresher.

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