Smoky Babe

Hottest Brand Goin'

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In an ideal world, singer/acoustic guitarist Smoky Babe would have left behind a huge catalog. But, regrettably, the southern bluesman wasn't well known, and he only recorded a few albums. One of them was Hottest Brand Goin', which was recorded for Prestige's Bluesville label in Baton Rouge, LA, in 1961, and was reissued on CD for Fantasy's Original Blues Classics (OBC) series in 2001. Everything on this album is pure, unadulterated acoustic country blues; however, Babe doesn't embrace any one style of country blues exclusively. A Mississippi native who moved to Louisiana, Babe gets his inspiration from a variety of southern sources. The Louisiana influence is present, but his approach also owes something to Mississippi Delta blues (Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt) as well as Piedmont blues (Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee) and Texas blues (Lightnin' Hopkins). The Hopkins influence is prominent -- "Long Way from Home," "Cold Cold Snow," and "Insect Blues" are the sort of moody, dusky gems that Hopkins would have embraced -- and yet, you can't overlook the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia influences that also do their part to enrich this CD. Babe's vocals are soulful and authoritative, his acoustic guitar playing rugged and gritty. Most of the time, Babe is unaccompanied, although three selections find him joined by either Clyde Causey or Henry Thomas on harmonica. Again, it's most regrettable that Babe didn't do a lot more recording, but it's better to have only a few albums by him than none at all -- and Hottest Brand Goin' is enthusiastically recommended to lovers of earthy, unpretentious southern country blues.

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