Various Artists

Piano Blues: The Essential

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Although blues is often thought of as a predominately guitar-based genre

(thanks largely to the early record labels that seemed to prefer recording solo guitarists), the piano has had a large part in its development. The polyrhythmic possibility of blues patterns was easier to accomplish on piano, and indeed, many guitarists found that adapting boogie woogie piano techniques to the guitar helped keep the dancefloor filled. This two-disc collection features a cross section of 1920s and 1930s blues piano styles, including classics by Roosevelt Sykes ("44 Blues"), Clarence "Pinetop" Smith ("Pinetop's Boogie Woogie," the prototype for this popular style), and Leroy Carr ("Ain't It a Shame"). Little Brother Montgomery's signature tune "Vicksburg Blues" is also collected here, as is Bumble Bee Slim's easy strolling "Rocks in My Pillow." Skip James, best known for his haunting guitar tunings, shows off his idiosyncratic piano skills on "If You Haven't Any Hay," while the immortal Peetie Wheatstraw pretty much sums it up in "Shake Bully Stomp" with the lines "I used to play it slow/but now I play it fast." Remastered from old 78s, the sound on the various tracks is generally pretty good, making this a great introduction to piano blues of the period.

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