Blind Willie McTell

Crapshooter's Blues

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John A. Lomax was on one of his field trips for the Library of Congress Folk Music Archives when he encountered Blind Willie McTell on the streets of Atlanta in 1940. He took the itinerant musician back to his hotel room and recorded the material that is found on this disc. From the opening track, "Chainey," it is obvious that McTell was in peak form, his 12-string sounding bright and full and his once soft, high tenor having grown deeper and more expressive than it had been on his classic 78s from the 1920s and 1930s. There are two versions of "I Got to Cross de River O' Jordan" collected here, and both feature simply stunning slide guitar work, while "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" reveals the hand of a sharp writer with an uncanny modern sensibility, stretching half surreal lyrics across a melody drawn from elements of old folk songs ("Streets of Laredo" and "St. James Infirmary"), a tactic that has served contemporary songwriters like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits quite well. There are also two brief interviews with McTell here, and the sheer intimacy of this hotel recording makes it one of the most compelling sessions this wonderful and unique bluesman ever did.

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