The Best of Mainstream Blues is a strong sampler of recordings drawn largely from the vaults of producer Bob Shad's Sittin in With label. After acquiring one of the first tape recorders around 1948, blues aficionado Shad began recording musicians in both New York and Atlanta (including Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee) before focusing on Texas, where he produced the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Peppermint Harris and Smokey Hogg. Most of the material, cut between 1949 and 1962, came out exclusively on 78s and 45s; Mainstream's reissue series, released and remastered with the help of Shad's estate, marks the first time many of the recordings have been made widely available. Among the artists represented on the series' premiere release (in addition to those listed above) are John Lee Hooker, Bob Gaddy, Roscoe Gordon, James Wayne, Arbee Stidham and a young Ray Charles.
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny