Various Artists

Barrelhouse Piano Blues and Stomps 1929-1933 [1994]

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When Document's first volume devoted to Barrelhouse Piano Blues and Stomps was released in 1994, the producers made the bizarre decision to decorate the album cover with a photograph of an obese, bare-breasted, dark-skinned woman wearing only a short straight-haired wig, pearl necklace, bracelets, a black bikini bottom, and a satin sash around her belly with decorative ribbons at the hips. Grasping a microphone in one hand and gesturing with the other, she appears to be singing or emceeing at a strip club or private party. Apparently this jaw-dropping snapshot was intended as a bracing reference to the bawdy origins of barrelhouse and boogie-woogie piano, but it certainly didn't fit with the rest of the album covers in the Document catalog, and somebody probably got called out for disseminating an image that most people would consider to be in poor taste. When the collection was reissued in 2005, the cover illustration had been changed to a modest close-up of the original 78 rpm Gennett record of Herve Duerson's "Naptown Special," a title that refers to the city of Indianapolis. This at least is more in keeping with the contents of the compilation, as all but the last four titles were recorded in Richmond, IN for the Gennett record company during the years 1929-1933. Tracks 2-15 were all waxed on the same day: August 28, 1929. "I'm Busy, You Can't Come In" was sung by Alura Mack, who was billed as Sallie Taylor. Her accompanist, who also backs Harry Campbell on "You'll Be Sorry Some Day" and Teddy Moss (aka Blue Boy, Floyd Griffin, James Platt, and Tall Tom) on tracks 6-8, was Herve Duerson, a fine keyboard tickler whose four piano solos (tracks 2-5) demonstrate his skill as a ragtime-schooled blues and boogie player as well as a parlor pianist capable of trundling out old-fashioned fare like the lovely "Evening Chimes Waltz." On "Dyin' in the Electric Chair" Duerson and Moss are joined by clarinetist Arnett Nelson, a busy sessionman whose résumé included sessions with Scrapper Blackwell, Memphis Minnie, Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, Lil Johnson, Lil Green, Casey Bill Weldon, and Tampa Red. Nelson also toots his horn on the "Wake Up in the Morning Blues" with Turner Parrish, a powerhouse pianist whose "Trenches" and "The Fives" were reissued by Decca/General in 1941. Prized by generations of enthusiasts, these two boogie-woogie classics were still showing up at the end of the 20th century on compact disc collections like this one and Yazoo's Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here. Parrish accompanies Teddy Moss on tracks 9-11 and sings his own blues on tracks 12, 17, and 18. This tough little collection of rare recordings by little-known pianists closes with four sides recorded for Paramount in Grafton, WI during November 1930 by Kingfish Bill Tomlin, who either accompanies himself on the ivories or is backed by pianist Louise Johnson. According to the liner notes by Howard Rye, the "Dupree Blues" traces back to "...a murderer hanged in Atlanta in 1922."

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