Various Artists

Bluesville Years, Vol. 12: Jump, Jumpin' the Blues

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The title might lead you to believe that you're going to hear a jump blues collection, but many listeners wouldn't find that categorization strictly accurate. It would be better to say that these 22 songs, all recorded for Bluesville and Prestige between 1959 and 1964, concentrate more on the upbeat, uptempo face of the blues experience, rather than the more downbeat aspects that have more visibility in popular culture. (In fact, they're given more visibility on compilations such as this one's direct predecessor, The Bluesville Years Vol. 11: Blues Is a Heart's Sorrow.) Most of the names here are mid-to-upper-level blues icons -- Otis Spann and James Cotton (playing together), Sonny Terry, Lightnin' Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Billy Boy Arnold, Roosevelt Sykes, and Jimmy Witherspoon -- though rather more obscure performers like K.C. Douglas, Homesick James, and Mildred Anderson are here too. Both rural and urban styles are represented, but urban styles are more in evidence. Sometimes, the blues is not just urban but urbane, with a jazzy feel on cuts by Little Brother Montgomery, Witherspoon, and Anderson (the last of whom has a band including tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and organist Shirley Scott). A more hard-hitting brand of brash electric blues, however, is on board via cuts by Arnold, Homesick James, Spann, and Cotton. The Spann-Cotton duet on "Lightnin'" (with Muddy Waters on guitar) is the high spot of the disc, although the recording quality isn't so hot. Like all of the volumes in this series, this is a decent sampler of the Bluesville/Prestige catalog, though too loose in its thematic and musical groupings to rate among the better blues compilations.

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