Blind Willie McTell

Complete Library of Congress Recordings (1940)

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By the time Georgia native William Samuel "Blind Willie" McTell earned ten dollars by sitting down in a hotel room in Atlanta on November 5, 1940, to preserve his artistry on 15 transcription platters for the Library of Congress, he had achieved a degree of fame by having recorded some 85 sides for multiple labels during the years 1927-1936. Document's 1995 release of McTell's Library of Congress recordings served as a welcome addition to several volumes of chronologically stacked McTell that had appeared on Document in 1990. McTell was a skilled 12-string guitarist, an expressive vocalist, and a well-versed interpreter of ragtime, spirituals, blues, and a wide range of rural folk forms. He performed well for the Library of Congress, sometimes narrating and explaining the social background for his music while fielding John Lomax's rather careless and insensitive questions. What you get here is an excellent spectrum of McTell's stylistic range and repertoire. His slide maneuvers on "Amazing Grace" are strikingly reminiscent of Blind Willie Johnson's technique. The overall content of this hotel room recital points directly to McTell's Atlantic session of November 1949.

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