Various Artists

Hokum: Blues & Rags (1929-30)

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"It's Tight Like That" by Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red, was such a hit in the late 1920s that many blues performers recorded very similar songs, often using the same chord changes and melody. The double entendre lyrics always had similar plots dealing with sex and occasionally drugs, and the music, called "hokum," did not have much room to develop. But it is remarkable how many performers explored that music for a few years. Rufus and Ben Quillian, sometimes known as the Blue Harmony Boys, recorded 14 titles during 1929-1931 including such songs as "Keep It Clean," "Working It Slow," "It's Dirty But Good," and "Workin' It Fast." Those four numbers are essentially the same song as "It's Tight Like That" with different singalong lines. Rufus often played effective piano and there was usually a guitarist who was sometimes James McCrary who sang along with the Quillian Brothers. The 14 performances are joined by a pair of duets by McCrary and pianist Quillian on Hokum, Blues and Rags. Also included are the only two selections by singer-ukulele player Joe Linthecome, the two-part "Pratt and George Blues" by an unknown vocal duet (the music is from a test pressing) and two excellent instrumentals from the two-guitar-and-mandolin trio the Three Stripped Gears. None of this music had much of a chance to survive the early years of the Depression but at least the surviving performances can still be enjoyed today.

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