Sylvester Cotton / Andrew Dunham

Blues Sensation: Detroit Downhome Recordings 1948-1949

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Blues Sensation might be a bit of a stretch, but there's no denying this is a great set of gritty blues from late-'40s Detroit. Both Sylvester Cotton and Andrew Dunham were contemporaries of John Lee Hooker (one of the Cotton sides was actually credited to Hooker when issued), and both performed solo with their guitar. The majority of sides here belong to Cotton, who plays a steel-bodied guitar with a very country chordal playing style with quick fills as opposed to more delicate fingerpickers like Fred McDowell or Skip James. Much of Cotton's output sounds very spontaneous, as though he was making up the songs on the spot like Bukka White did. Cotton's subject matter was sometimes as indelicate as his guitar playing with titles like "Big Chested Mama Blues" and "Sak-Relation Blues," and in "Watered Down Blues" he sings about hitting his baby in the head with a hammer. Five tracks from Dunham finish out the set. The recording quality is a bit rougher here, but still very listenable. Dunham starts with a tune called "Rocky Mountain" that's a raw, manic stomper with bashed-out chords. The next track, "Little Bitty Woman," shows considerably more guitar skill, to the point that it really stands out among the Dunham tracks. This collection should please any fan of raw, early urban blues.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 2:39
3 2:18
4 3:06
5 2:33
6 2:46
7 2:48
8 2:37
9
2:45
10 2:40
11 3:05
12 2:37
13 2:50
14
2:51
15 2:58
16 2:53
17 2:36
18 2:55
19 2:56
20
4:53
21
feat: James Taylor
2:43
22
3:26
23
feat: James Taylor
3:01
24 4:41
25
3:24
blue highlight denotes track pick