Various Artists

American Folk Blues Festival: 1962-1965

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From 1962 until 1971, the American Folk Blues Festival was responsible for bringing dozens of the most celebrated American blues artists to audiences from England to Poland. For many of the musicians, these were the largest audiences they'd ever played to, and the first (and often only) decent money they ever made. This five-CD set captures the vital early years of the festival more fully than any prior issues, with previously unreleased bonus tracks (some of which overlaps). The 1962 volume was recorded live in Hamburg, and has no extra tracks, but the material is so vital and robust that this volume, featuring Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, never needed it. The 1963 disc, recorded live in Bremen, opens with three previously unreleased live Memphis Slim cuts, and follows these with a previously unissued Muddy Waters solo acoustic guitar piece and three more never-issued numbers featuring Muddy backed by Dixon, Otis Spann, and Matt "Guitar" Murphy. The three Sonny Boy Williamson bonus tracks were very late in the day and constitute some of the very last songs left behind by the increasingly ailing harp legend. The 1964 volume is a little less enhanced, with two songs by Willie Dixon and one song each by Sonny Boy Williamson, Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, and Sugar Pie DeSanto. The 1965 volume was always the odd one in this series; as a studio recording rather than a concert document, it lacks the vibrancy of the earlier volumes, but its eight bonus tracks do include some interesting moments by Buddy Guy, Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, and Big Walter Horton. The sound quality is good, but given the time that's passed, a full set of notes might have been nice.

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