The Folkways label might be one of the few organizations that would attempt to make Roosevelt Sykes seem dull. This album is one of several that Sykes' compadre and fellow boogie-woogier Memphis Slim was involved in producing, and they practically come packaged like sex education manuals, complete with crudely printed insert, albeit made a bit classier by the presence of liner notes by Valerie Wilmer. Calling a Sykes album "blues" seems like an ethnomusilogical understatement, and the insertion of his nickname "the Honeydripper" in parentheses everytime his name is printed eventually makes it seem like this is some kind of academic distinction. Nonetheless, the sheer joy that is Roosevelt Sykes comes bubbling from the grooves the moment the needle hits. The songs include some of the numbers that were regular fare for Sykes when he was a small band leader, while others are more intimate, including his spoken offsides (probably with a cigar in his mouth). The final track hints at the more expansive Fats Waller-style playing he would get into as he got older and was performing solo for listening audiences. Like many recordings on this label, dynamic level is set too low and the piano ends up fighting for space against the surface noise, which can hardly be what the performer nor his producer had in mind. Speaking of Slim, he does join in for one duet, but otherwise this is solo Sykes. Lyrics are included, but there is no attempt to credit who might have composed the tune. Sykes tends to add so many little touches to his cover versions that it might be tempting to call them his own compositions by the time he gets through with them.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne
feat: Memphis Slim