Few individuals have elicited the folklore and legend of boxing deity Joe Louis. On this album from Rounder Select, some of the stories and songs of "The Brown Bomber" have been collected to pay tribute to one of the greatest gentlemen-athletes of all time. From Cab Calloway's big band tribute "Let's Go Joe" to John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson's back-porch telling of "Joe Louis and John Henry Blues" (which in itself demonstrates the legendary heights the modern-day hero has reached), this collection travels from the pews of Reverend J. M. Gates to the ring itself, showing just how deep and pervasive Louis' legend was. While Count Basie and Paul Robeson try to determine the Bomber's secret ingredients, Li'l Johnson tries to find someone to take a bet against the Champ. Fat chance. The mythic majesty of Louis even reaches the islands, where Trinidadian calypso stars Lion and Atilla recall the (in)famous fight between Louis and Max Schmelling. Even in losing, Louis' greatness grew, especially in the eyes of the downtrodden who saw Louis not only as their champion but as one of their own. Louis' recapturing of the title inspired Jack Sneed to record a tribute the day after the fight. In addition to the diverse styles of music, this album also contains detailed liner notes and thousand-word pictures, so those who knew Louis, those who claimed to know the Champ, and those who did not know Joe Louis from Louis Armstrong can learn a bit (or a bit more) about one of the most legendary men of the modern era.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Robinson