Papa Charlie Jackson

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1926-1928)

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Twenty-six of Papa Charlie Jackson's recordings dating between February 1926 and September 1928, and an extraordinary volume this is. Now firmly ensconced in the electrical recording era, the sound on these records brings out the rich texture of Jackson's banjo playing, and his singing is thoroughly enjoyable, as he runs through thinly veiled topical songs ("Judge Cliff Davis Blues"), playful romantic pieces ("Butter and Egg Man Blues"), bouncy rags ("Look Out Papa Don't Tear Your Pants"), and more ambitious remakes of his early songs, most notably an outtake of "Salty Dog," cut with Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals (with New Orleans jazz great Johnny Dodds on clarinet). The two-part "Up the Way Bound," dating from the spring of 1926, isn't quite as well recorded as some of the rest, featuring Jackson on guitar, but his vocal performance carries the song well enough -- unfortunately, the second half of this piece, from side two of the original Paramount release, is neither as well recorded nor as well preserved as the first half. There's lots of little slice-of-black-urban-life material here worth noting as well, including Jackson's homage to the numbers racket, "Four Eleven Forty Four." Jackson's vocal skills are vividly displayed in his extraordinarily impassioned singing on "Bad Luck Woman Blues," one of his finest performances. We also get his first version of "Skoodle-Um-Skoo," an upbeat dance number reminiscent of his earlier "Shake That Thing," awhich he recut some seven years later -- this record also demonstrates better than almost any other side the full measure of advantage that the banjo had over the guitar in those days of blues recording, with a solo that fairly leaps out at the listener.

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