Various Artists

It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2 [Birdman]

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The second in a sparkling series of audio collage/documentaries focusing on the Delta blues, It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2 is a brilliantly conceived and executed exploration into the form. Produced (directed would be a more accurate term) by Robert Gordon, this release is very similar to a modern version of the famous Alan Lomax-produced filed recordings from pre-and post-World War II. The overall primitive and primeval form of the blues comes across on all of the cuts, from the unadorned, downright dirty acoustic "Boogie" by Othar Turner to Moloch's devastating version of "Smokestack Lightning."

Recording the blues at its source with conceivably purposefully primitive equipment, Gordon succeeds in giving the listener a virtual aural, cinematic tour of the genre as an art form in itself. The artists on the record are little-known outside of their hometown, yet the power and dynamic emotive quality of such bigger names as Waters, Burnett, Hooker, and King resides in virtually all of the cuts. The album also shows the listener how the blues influences other genres, specifically the Motown drive of "By Your Side." One of several oddball highlights here is also the scratchy 78-rpm transcription disc of "Shake Your Boogie" by Johnny Woods and Bobby Ray Watson, which, as an instrumental, is as funky as it gets. Even the surface noise sounds cool. Tav Falco's reading of "Train Kept a Rollin'" sounds eerily like an early Velvet Underground rehearsal tape. In the end, you not only get a lot of great, unknown blues music here, but you also get an education. Simply brilliant.

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