Cortelia Clark

Blues in the Street

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Nashville, TN rightfully gained its reputation as Music City USA for the bounty of C&W talent that flocked there to 'break into' the music business. However in the mid-'60s, one of the city's most musical inhabitants wasn't found in the various studios, but rather on Fifth Avenue -- selling shopping bags for loose change and giving his songs away for free. Cortelia Clark (guitar/vocals) was a blind street singer who eventually caught the ear of RCA Victor Records producer/A&R man Felton Jarvis. The aptly-titled Blues in the Street is a live outing capturing Clark interacting with city dwellers and performing originals and distinctive variations of otherwise familiar pop, country and blues tunes. As the concept -- if not the album itself -- was atypical to say the least, the disc opens with the fairly self-explanatory "Felton Jarvis Interviews Cortelia." The artist gives some personal background and expounds upon his day-to-day existence, which by all accounts would constitute poverty. Yet he proudly proclaims "I make a pretty good livin'," quickly adding that he has made "up to 25 or 30 dollars a week." Although obviously not a formally trained guitarist, Clark's true virtuosity comes from his soul, passion and uncanny improvisational skills. "Baby, What Have I Done" couples new lyrics with a steady driving rhythm, melodically recalling Cannon's Jug Stompers' "Walk Right In," which had been turned into a folk hit by the Rooftop Singers in 1963 and not surprisingly is covered by Clark to great effect. He likewise reworks "Bye Bye Love" and "Trouble in Mind" adapting both to his own unique persona. In terms of standard fare, the regional Piedmont blues and its associated derivations are evident on selections such as the plaintive "Love Blues" and "Be My Darlin'." He fuses a definite offshoot of Blind Boy Fuller's "Truckin' My Blues Away" [aka "Keep On Truckin'"] into the ramble tamble of "Love, Oh Love." Even though the platter sold less than 1,000 copies in its' initial run, Clark took home the Grammy Award for "Best Folk Recording Of 1966" beating out Peter, Paul & Mary and Pete Seeger.

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