Washboard Sam

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 5

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The fifth volume in Document's exhaustively thorough reissuance of the complete recorded works of Washboard Sam contains every record he cut for Bluebird between July 29, 1940, and January 31, 1941, with tracks one through 12 being the last that are known to have been distributed by the Montgomery Ward company. For those who wish to delve deeper than a smattering of the man's most commonly reissued records, this segment of his legacy (or any other volume in the series, or for that matter the entire series taken like a horse pill of vintage mid-century Chicago blues) offers a satisfying range of moods and story lines. As was the case with almost every session he ever led, Washboard Sam is accompanied throughout by his lifelong friend and hypothetical half-brother, guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Other identifiable participants were alto saxophonist Buster Bennett; pianists Joshua Altheimer, Blind John Davis, Horace Malcolm, and Simeon Henry; and bassists William Mitchell and Leroy Bachelor. The rolling "Why Did You Do That to Me?" is a glowing example of Washboard Sam at his very best. Its flip side, a sequel to his big hit "Diggin' My Potatoes," boots along with comparable ease, as does "I'm Going to St. Louis." As for "Every Tub Stands on Its Own Bottom," the title is a not too distant cousin to that which was used for Count Basie's swinging instrumental "Every Tub." "He's a Creepin' Man" takes the word "creep" more literally than usual. Not only is the guy who invades the singer's private life a creep, but he actually crawls around on all fours, like some sort of a hybrid monster, half man, half beast. Bennett's easygoing sax disappears on the second half of this collection; after the Second World War, this largely underappreciated saxophonist would make a series of records under his own name that owed a lot to the friendly, outspoken honesty of Washboard Sam.

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