Sonny Terry

Folk Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

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Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee made their first recording together in 1941 and became the longest-running blues duo in memory, stringing out nearly 40 years of recordings and gigs until their gradually emerging distaste for each other finally proved insurmountable and brought an end to the musical partnership. Although they recorded in a surprisingly varied number of styles, they are best remembered for their fortuitous take on traditional Piedmont blues material during the folk boom of the 1950s and early '60s, a musical revival that no doubt rescued Terry & McGhee from the scrap pile of blues history. Driven by Terry's trademark high-pitched and whooping harmonica and McGhee's solid, steady acoustic guitar playing, the pair updated their traditional blues material just enough to earn steady gigs on the college and coffeehouse circuit, and if they had a tendency to knock off most of the rough edges in the songs they did, enough of the Piedmont tradition remained to make them valuable keepers of the flame. This set, originally released in 1959 by Roulette Records, is one of the finest the duo ever did, featuring a passion and energy that they seldom equaled again. Wonderfully remastered from the original tapes, tracks here like "Corn Bread, Peas and Black Molasses," the chuggin' "Southern Train," and "Climbing on Top of the Hill" (a reconstructed version of "Sitting on Top of the World") leap out of the speakers with real vitality, giving them an enthusiastic edge that was unfortunately lacking in a lot of the duo's recordings, however well their talents meshed.

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