Various Artists

Devil's Blues [2001]

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The figure of the devil is no stranger in blues lyrics and the music itself has been called the devil's music often enough to make the devil implicit even in blues songs where the shenanigans are all too human. This set from Fuel 2000 has a couple of songs that talk openly about such things, most notably Otis Spann's "It Must Have Been the Devil" and Tommie Young's "Everybody's Got a Little Devil in Their Soul," but most of what is here concerns drinking, cheating, and other devilish behavior that lacks any real supernatural cast, implicit or otherwise. Which is too bad, because a set of songs dealing directly with the devil might have made this album a good deal more striking. Instead what's collected here are 18 fairly standard blues and jump blues pieces that only rarely rise to the level of being truly compelling and only occasionally make any satanic-related rumblings. Spann's tune, which opens things, has a dark and sparse grace to it, and Magic Sam's 1958 single for Cobra Records, "21 Days in Jail," races along at an exciting pace that puts it close to rockabilly. Detroit Junior's (the pianist was actually based out of Chicago) "Talk Fast," a 1965 single for USA Records, has a nice sense of street urgency to it, and one would never want to bet against Memphis Minnie, whose "Kissing in the Dark" is also compiled here, but few of the sides on Devil's Blues could be deemed essential. Fuel 2000 has released a couple of collections under this same title with identical artwork and graphics but slightly different set lists, creating unnecessary confusion which might be attributed to the devil's work but is probably just marketing indifference.

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