Various Artists

And This Is Maxwell Street

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This two disc set features the street recordings from the 1964 Mike Shea film documentary, And This Is Free, plus a bevy of previously unreleased performances of equal landmark merit. Hard-core blues fans and slide guitar aficionados will be familiar with some of this material because a handful of these performances were issued in 1980 on Rounder as Robert Nighthawk Live On Maxwell Street -- 1964. At the time of their release these recordings were incorrectly credited. It turns out that the performances themselves were also edited. For the record, it's the otherwise unknown guitarist Little Arthur King -- not Night Hawk -- playing the bebop instrumental medley; he also pops up on this set backing both Carey Bell and Big John Wrencher. Johnny Young, listed on the Rounder package as the second guitarist does appear on these recordings, but only in a frontman role on two tracks. Carey Bell once again appears on the tracks from the original release plus some others, but he shares the harmonica duties with Big John Wrencher, the one-armed blues wizard who was a mainstay of the Maxwell Street area and evidently a regular of Night Hawk's informal Sunday group. The drummer is Jimmy Collins, who seems hell-bent on finishing every number -- even the slow blues -- at a much faster tempo than where it was originally started. The other previously unidentified guitarist on these recordings turns out to be none other than Shea's close friend Mike Bloomfield. Deemed "unauthentic" by Shea, none of Bloomfield's work was filmed and all of his off-mike lead work with Night Hawk was consequently edited out of the Rounder album. Here, Bloomfield takes the lead on the two Johnny Young numbers and also shows up on Night Hawk's version of "Dust My Broom" and on the now longer medley of "Annie Lee"/"Sweet Black Angel," swapping licks with the old master. In the middle of all these blues performances are equally stellar ones from the gospel side of things, courtesy of James, Fannie Brewer and Carrie Robinson. Ultimately, Night Hawk's performances form the centerpiece of these landmark recordings. If the original Rounder package was an eye-opener as to what Night Hawk was truly capable of in a live setting, this new package is twice as illuminating, making him present on 22 of the 30 selections on here. Start your Robert Night Hawk collection with this two-disc collection and you'll never have to look back; these recordings will end up becoming his crowning legacy. It seriously belongs in every blues fan's collection.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
0:54
2
11:21
3
10:48
4
10:48
5
10:03
blue highlight denotes track pick