Various Artists

Country Blues: The Essential

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This double-disc collection of vintage country blues 78s from the 1920s and '30s includes a couple of the better known blues players of the era (Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Lemon Jefferson), but is largely made up of tracks by more obscure artists, which is probably its strength as a compilation. The highlights are many, including Henry Thomas' wonderfully archaic (even for its era) "Charming Betsy" and Little Hat Jones' jaunty take on "Kentucky Blues." Geeshie Wiley's vocal performance on the modal "Last Kind Word Blues" is stunning, her voice sounding at once weary, haunted, desperate, and wise. The sound quality varies from track to track, which is standard with this kind of collection, due to the recording methods of the day. This is not for the casual listener, but recommended for those who have a serious interest in country blues.

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