Various Artists

Guitar Wizards: 1926-1935

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Guitar Wizards: 1926-1935 showcases some of the finest six-string players who resided in the Carolinas and along the Atlantic coast during the period. While it has consistently been afforded less significance than its Mississippi and Memphis counterparts, the area has one of the oldest blues traditions. Still, its recorded legacy remains small in comparison. Many of the musicians here had to make their way to larger cities for recording opportunities. The most successful was Blind Blake, a highly popular and influential recording artist with ties to both Chicago and the coast. An average singer and versifier, Blake's reputation rests almost entirely on his stunning guitar technique. He makes four appearances on Guitar Wizards, the most impressive of which is the dazzling "Guitar Chimes Blues." Blake sounds completely relaxed, taking the time to pause to repeat a chord or figure or spin graceful, syncopated lines. Also included is a tasteful stroll through the songster standard "You're Gonna Quit Me Blues" and an example of his ragtime style on "Wabash Rag." By contrast, there's a sense of recklessness in the brisk picking of Sam Butler. His lines seem to jump ahead of the vocal, then wait for it to catch up. The results are thrilling on performances like "Jefferson County Blues" and "Some Scream High Yellow." Tampa Red (whose technique won him the "Guitar Wizard" tag) plays in a forceful style, with clear, punctuating notes being broken by his characteristic, crying slide interjections. Unfortunately, all the Blind Blake selections are also available on The Best of Blind Blake: a foundational set for any country blues collection. While it's nearly impossible to disregard any Yazoo compilation as insignificant, Guitar Wizards (despite its high quality) is only necessary for more serious collectors.

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