Big Bill Broonzy

Mississippi River Blues

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This is a good compilation of some of Big Bill Broonzy's better 1930s sides, augmented by a single 1946-vintage track. The acoustic sides, going back all the way to 1932, are amazingly sophisticated, with the playing on "Worrying You Off My Mind, Pt. 1" offering some gorgeous guitar, while "How You Want It Done" is a showcase for his speed and dexterity and "Bull Cow Blues" shows his instrument surging and chiming -- had Broonzy retained just half of his ability when he toured England, then audiences there were getting a bargain. The later sides, featuring full-band accompaniment, will be a little less satisfying to guitar enthusiasts, as Broonzy's instrument shares the spotlight with other players, though they're impressive as prime examples of big-band-style jump blues. The makers have used the cleanest sources possible for the 16 songs present, which brings out the subtleties of his singing and playing about as well as they've ever been heard. Strangely enough, it's only on the newest of the songs, "Big Bill Blues" from 1946, that the sound takes a step down, the piano not coming out nearly as well on this recording as the accompaniment on the other sides does.

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