T-Bone Walker

1952-1954

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After the demise of Paul Reiner's L.A.-based Black & White label in the late '40s, T-Bone Walker moved on to a four-year stay at Imperial Records, the final two years of which are covered by this fourth installment in Classic Records' chronological survey of the Texas guitarist's complete recorded work. The Walker formula was well set by this point, consisting of upbeat jump blues numbers mixed in with slower, bluesy ballads, all stung through with his jazz-inflected guitar lines, which were thankfully often mixed to the fore. Walker's sessions for Imperial took place in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Detroit, and aside from a gradual harshening of the rhythms until tracks like 1954's "Teen-Age Baby" began to prefigure rock & roll, they don't differ much from his work at Black & White. Among the standout tracks collected here are "Vida Lee," the sparse, New Orleans-inflected (although it was recorded in Detroit) "My Baby Is Now on My Mind," the rhythmically interesting "Hard Way," and a couple of sides that stop just short of rock & roll, "Pony Tail" and "Teen-Age Baby." Arranged chronologically like this, Walker's sides can start to sound too much alike, but when his guitar stings into an arrangement, it hardly matters.

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