Various Artists

Bluesville Years, Vol. 11: Blues Is a Heart's Sorrow

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As the title all but announces, this is a compilation of tunes devoted to the more disappointing and mournful side of the blues experience, all recorded for the Bluesville and Prestige labels between 1959 and 1963. In the blues genre, of course, you don't have to look very far to assemble a collection of sorrowful tunes. However, the 20-song compilation, largely comprised of well-known names such as Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lightnin' Hopkins, Willie Dixon, and Lonnie Johnson, isn't all that much of a downer. For the most part it's urban blues with a light blues-jazz crossover feel, as epitomized by the Witherspoon cuts, one of which even features Kenny Burrell on guitar. And Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Shirley Scott are on hand for Mildred Anderson's "I'm Gettin' Long Alright," with its exaggerated crying vocal noises. If you want something more down-home, there's Hopkins trading riffs with Sonny Terry on "Last Night Blues" (though even that has drums and bass), and Henry Townsend. Yet this might be better described as after-hours blues, often with somewhat downbeat lyrics and moods, but certainly classy, with an anguish that is more polished than raw. It's a rather patchy way to catch up on the Bluesville/Prestige catalog. But as most people don't want to accumulate a complete set of those LPs, this is a decent, though not great, overview of a slice of its discography.

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