Various Artists

Lost Blues Tapes/More American Folk Blues Festival

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It is ironic that two promoters from Germany, Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau, may well have played the largest part in revitalizing an American audience for the blues in the United States during the 1960s. Their annual barnstorming tours of Western Europe with a roster of American blues greats sparked a blues revival, particularly in London, where Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and a host of other young white musicians fell under the spell of the blues. When British bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Yardbirds exported the music back to the States, blues reestablished itself as a commercially viable form in its homeland, leading to long careers for many of the artists featured here. The tours, billed as the American Folk Blues Festival, ran every fall in Europe, beginning in 1962 and lasting until 1970, and several live performances from those shows (most of them from the 1963, 1964, and 1965 tours) are collected in this two-disc set. Whether they're truly "lost tapes" or not is debatable, but several of these performances are priceless historical documents, and the sound is great, even intimate. Highlights include Memphis Slim's winking, elegant version of the traditional "John Henry" ballad; Otis Spann's "Going Down Slow"; a solo acoustic rendition of "Catfish Blues" by Muddy Waters; Big Mama Thornton's blistering "Hound Dog"; J.B. Lenoir's "If I Get Lucky"; Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Got a Letter This Morning" (a variant of Son House's "Death Letter"); and the loose, front-porch jug band feel of Sleepy John Estes' "Your Best Friend's Gone." There are no liner notes to speak of, which is a shame, but the music here is simply wonderful.

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