Various Artists

Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics: 1926-1937

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Originating with the homemade, single-string instruments created by musicians from Mississippi and neighboring states, the slide style of guitar playing was particularly effective when applied to the developing blues. Employing open tunings, guitarists could gracefully blur notes for a quality not unlike the human voice. Consisting almost entirely of solo vocal/guitar numbers, Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics: 1926-1937 excels in its portrait of the instrument's range in the hands of players like Barbecue Bob, Bukka White, King Solomon Hill, and Robert Johnson. Only four of Hill's six 78 sides had seen the light of day at the time of this release. On the basis of "Whoopee Blues" (and the superior "Gone Dead Train," not included), this is a sad fact. The performance is a killer both for the brilliance of Hill's penetrating falsetto and for his adept slide work. Bukka White's debut, "The Panama Limited," with its spoken verses (accompanied by train-like vamp) and sung choruses (mimicked by wonderfully distilled slide lines), sets the stage for many of his subsequent recordings. A further highlight is provided by the exceptional husband and wife team of Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie on the biting slide performance "My Wash Woman's Gone." Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics is of course only one version of the story: its selection, while excellent, doesn't provide the slide guitar primer one might expect. There are, for example, no selections by either Kokomo Arnold or Casey Bill Weldon. Rather, the collection feels like a Yazoo sampler that focuses on slide material. A minor qualm as the artists contained here are, for the most part, all formidable players, and almost every performance stands as a classic example of the style.

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