Long Ol' Way from Home: The Chicago Sessions

Robert Pete Williams

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Long Ol' Way from Home: The Chicago Sessions Review

by Steve Leggett

Among the last of the great old country-blues players discovered in the 1960s, Robert Pete Williams was easily the most unique. His ragged griot approach to the blues paid little attention to standard rhymes or blues forms, allowing him to spin personalized stories of tremendous emotional power, even when he was working off of traditional pieces like "Motherless Child" or "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home." The recordings collected here were taped by Norman Dayron at concerts Williams gave at the University of Chicago and Lake Forest College in early 1965, and they show a masterful performer at the top of his game, playing flawless acoustic guitar and singing like a man who is assured he has something to say, and that he'll be heard saying it. Songs like "Bye, Bye Baby," "Lord, I'm Going Back Home Blues," and "My Mother Prayed in the World One Day" have a quiet power and intimacy that move them past the dim-lit world of blues history and into the hushed silence of a modern concert hall. The immediacy of Williams' performances here are so compelling that even a novelty number, the goofy "Kazoo Blues," featuring a true blues kazoo (you'll understand when you hear it), seems to reverberate with poignant vitality. Williams put so much heart into his work that there are really no bad albums out there under his name, but this one is special. Well-recorded, and with a intimate tone that is perfect for Williams and his material, Long Ol' Way From Home should not be missed.

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