Various Artists

American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1969, Vol. 3 [DVD]

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The third video compilation in this series is arguably the weakest, but is nonetheless required viewing for all roots/blues fans. As in the previous two DVDs, the material is culled from professionally shot and recorded European television shows from 1965-1968. Only one tune dates from before that period (1962's closing group performance of Helen Humes' "The Blues Ain't Nothin' But a Woman"), making the titular years a bit misleading. Regardless, there is some powerful music here. Half of the tracks, nine out of 18, are taken from 1967's newly discovered Danish television footage. Unfortunately this material was not played in front of a live audience, and without that immediate feedback, the predominantly country blues tunes, while emotionally moving, lack the bite and tension that the artists were used to delivering for their typically more vocal stateside crowds. Much is made about this being the only known live video of Little Walter, but the detailed notes in the 24-page book recount how unhappy he was on this tour. His non-amplified harp backing on Hound Dog Taylor's "Wild About You" and Koko Taylor's classic "Wang Dang Doodle" is much more sedate than what most would expect for a man known the most riveting electrically enhanced harmonica player in blues. Sonny Terry, who joins partner Brownie McGhee for three 1967 tunes and shows up for the 1962 finale, is much more impressive on harmonica, spitting out machine gun notes with precision. Buddy Guy's funky, James Brown-styled "Out of Sight" isn't really blues, but it does capture the guitarist at his most animated. Three "bonus" closing tracks not from the American Folk Blues taping, but from the same time period, are revelatory. One features the incredible Earl Hooker (playing with his teeth on "Earl's Boogie" in 1969) and two catch 1968 stingers from Muddy Waters. A fiery "Long Distance Call" might be the DVD's most intensely shot song, with extreme close-ups that capture Waters' expressive facial nuances. Skip James, Dr. Isaiah Ross (a one man band on vocal, guitar, harmonica, and even rudimentary drums), Bukka White, and Roosevelt Sykes are in prime form, playing the more rootsy, non-amplified music that dominates this volume. Startlingly crisp video and audio transfers make this another classy offering of music that might otherwise have been lost to the ages.

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