If you asked even knowledgeable blues fans what blues music came from Detroit in the late '40s and early '50s, most of them probably couldn't name anything besides the early recordings of John Lee Hooker. In fact, however, some other artists did record primitive blues (often of the full-band and electric sort) in the city at the time, spurred in part by Hooker's considerable success. Battle of Hastings Street: Raw Detroit Blues & R&B from Joe's Record Shop 1953-1954 assembles a couple dozen rarities from the era, about half of them finding release on DeLuxe and King singles (mostly in 1953 and 1954), though the other half were issued for the first time on this CD. If the term "garage music" had existed back in the early '50s before the birth of rock & roll, surely it would have applied to much of this material, which is usually raw (and sometimes sloppy) in execution, and often recorded with barely any more finesse. As unpolished as this stuff is, though, that's part of its very attraction. There's a cool gutbucket potency to a lot of it, even if the performers aren't well known even to blues collectors, except for Eddie Kirkland (who's obviously trying to ride John Lee Hooker's coattails, though competently so) and possibly Eddie Burns. Imitative records can be enjoyable, though, and Eddie Burns' "Hello Miss Jessie Lee" is certainly a fun spin on the "Good Morning Little School Girl" riff, with electric guitar that's super-distorted for 1953. Johnny Wright's sides, meanwhile, aren't at all close to the Hooker style, instead showing a stop-start comic R&B flair heavily reminiscent of the Coasters' classic hit "Riot in Cell Block #9." Other tracks take their lead from the first Sonny Boy Williamson, and Joe Weaver manages some hot, if foggily recorded, jump blues boogie. By their very nature, these recordings are almost exclusively for hard-bitten early electric blues fans rather than the average enthusiasts. But it's recommended to intense fans of this kind of material looking for something a little unconventional, as the tracks are more varied and streetwise than most such relics of the era, and annotated with more detail than you'd think possible.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger