Big Joe Williams

Big Joe Williams at Folk City

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Cut at Gerdes Folk City in New York on February 26, 1962, this record shows Big Joe Williams in top late-era form, enjoying himself before an audience of mostly white college kids and beats. He plays his signature nine-string guitar, accompanying himself on kazoo, which basically works (even subbing for what would have been a fuzz-tone guitar on "Bugle Blues"), although the kazoo was never meant to be captured in digital sound. The material includes Tommy McClennan's "Bottle Up and Go" and 11 traditional songs, including the intense "Trouble Take Me to My Grave" (his version of a song more familiar in Muddy Waters' version as "I Can't Be Satisfied"), "Mink Coat Blues," and "Burned Child Is Scared of Fire," all done in lively fashion with daunting finger-picking. Williams left behind several folk club recordings from the early '60s, and they make a good contrast to the vast body of studio recordings from the same era. He was evidently at his best playing directly to an audience.

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