Big Bill Broonzy

King of the Blues, Vol. 15: The Father of Chicago Blues

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Big Bill Broonzy was viewed as a beloved country blues player when he died in 1958, a master of raw and authentic-sounding folk-blues. But this public image, although Broonzy worked hard to maintain it in his later years, does him a bit of a disservice. He was much more than a rustic relic, however well he played the part. Broonzy was an excellent and even sophisticated guitarist, starting out in the '30s as a rag and hokum player but he was versatile enough to work with jazz and R&B combos, and his guitar approach was instrumental in the early formation of the Chicago blues sound. He was also a crafty songwriter, who managed to write blues pieces that bridged the line between traditional blues themes and modern structure. This 21-track collection focuses mostly on his early solo acoustic material, although there are some band pieces included as well toward the end of the sequence. The immortal and gritty "Pig Meat Strut" is here, as well as "I Can't Be Satisfied," "Mississippi River Blues," and a vibrant "Mountain Blues," but a couple of his key signature tracks are missing, most notably "Key to the Highway" and "All by Myself," leaving this a compilation that only begins to hint at the full range of what Big Bill brought to the table.

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