T-Bone Walker

Natural Blues

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One of three volumes chronicling T-Bone Walker's seminal late-'40s sides for the Black & White label, The Natural Blues contains a rich mix of material by the trailblazing guitarist. While his urbane style of jump blues provided a nice alternative to the smooth and contemporary hits of Nat Cole, his guitar playing influenced countless blues guitarists like B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, and Guitar Slim. One certainly hears many examples of Walker's innovative electric guitar work here in an instrumental gamut that includes jazz-inflected lines and his patented hard riffing. This mix of rough and soft is reflected in this disc's mix of jump blues swingers and after-hours blues. Numbers like "Lonesome Woman Blues" and "Inspiration Blues" bristle with a combination of Louis Jordan's fleet swinging R&B and Walker's contrasting hard-edged electric guitar work, while slower sides like "Vacation Blues" simmer with moaning horns and Walker's resonant voice. And he doesn't just go in for blues, as evidenced by pop-style ballads like "I Want a Little Girl": a song that owes more to the parlor sweetness of a Ivory Joe Hunter than the blues shouting of Wynonie Harris. The guitarist also gives a nod to his country blues past in Texas with raw and minimal blues like "Hard Pain Blues." Throughout, Walker gets excellent backing from Los Angeles bandleader Lloyd Glenn's crack outfit and various other stars of the West Coast blues and R&B scene. Unfortunately, since Charly's Black & White titles are no longer available, there aren't really any single disc collections featuring this wonderful music. In light of this setback, one can invest in Capitol's three-disc box set which has all the Black & White sides, including alternate takes, or go in for Rhino's overview of both Walker's Black & White and later Imperial sides. Either way you choose, you won't be disappointed.

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