Various Artists

Let's Get Drunk Again

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Accurately subtitled "Booze-Fuelled Blues, Bluegrass, Hillbilly and R'n'B from the 1920s-1950s," this assembles 20 tracks taking various lyrical angles on that old demon alcohol. It's such a popular subject in pop music that one CD can't come close to including most of the songs dealing with the topic. However, Let's Get Drunk Again does have a well-selected, well-sequenced mixture of big and not-so-big names in various pre-rock American roots music styles. Among the biggest names are Louis Jordan ("Whiskey Do Your Stuff"), Robert Johnson ("Drunken Hearted Man"), Howlin' Wolf ("C.V. Vine"), and Bessie Smith ("The Gin House Blues"). Some important artists in early country music are also heard from, like the Dixon Brothers, J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers, and Charlie Poole. The late-'40s and early-'50s R&B/jump blues are the most entertaining selections, however, including one of the first major R&B hits that contained highly audible seeds of rock & roll (Stick McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," from 1949) and a lesser-known early-'50s jumper that illustrates the CD's theme as well as anything here (Jimmy Liggins' "Drunk"). Papa Lightfoot's "Wine, Women, Whiskey" is also something of an archetypal statement within this mini-genre, and is about as raw and gritty a mid-'50s electric blues performance as you'll hear (particularly in the vocal department, his singing sounding as if it's being processed through a rotary blade). It's a little too much harping on the same subject if you're not in the right mood, but this well-annotated disc is an impressive example of creative cross-licensing that combines variety and quality.

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