Various Artists

Blues Routes: Heroes & Tricksters

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Seventeen live performances on this blues compilation, drawn from 1990-1995 recordings that were done for the Folk Masters series distributed by Public Radio International; all of these were recorded at either the Barns of Wolf Trap or Carnegie Hall. There's a lot of variety and numerous styles represented: work songs, folksy songsters, modern electric blues (Joe Louis Walker does an eight-minute "Bluesifyin"), Delta-styled blues (Robert Jr. Lockwood), piano jazz-blues, and more. It's adventurous enough to go off into some detours that aren't strictly blues, but certainly blues-related, as in the zydeco by Boozoo Chavis, the a cappella vocals of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, the jazz violin of Claude Williams, and the New Orleans trad jazz of Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders. Many of the performers were quite elderly when they made their contributions, and while it's great that there is a venue for these guardians of tradition, much of the disc is overly polite in execution. When the White Cloud Hunters Mardi Gras Indians come on with their unbridled chants on "Sew, Sew, Sew," the energy and daring really pick up. The go-go music of Rapper Dee, C.J., and Five Gallons of Fun's "My Mind Has No Color/Doing It the Go-Go Way," with percussion performed largely on paint buckets and other found objects, is another ambitious detour worth applauding.

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