Poor Bob's Blues

Robert Pete Williams

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Poor Bob's Blues Review

by Steve Leggett

Robert Pete Williams worked from the field holler tradition, with free-form lyrics that were usually unrhymed, making him the most idiosyncratic and West African-sounding of the country blues players, if not the most emotionally personal. Poor Bob's Blues collects recordings Williams did for Harry Oster's Folk-Lyric label between 1959 (when Oster discovered him at Angola Prison in Louisiana) and Williams' death in 1980, and it forms a wonderful introduction to this unique bluesman. The opening track on disc one, a slow, unaccompanied moan called "My Mind Wandering Around," sets the tone here, as Williams' improvised lyrics and spoken explanatory asides build into a remarkably personal meditation that is really unlike anything else in country blues. Even when Williams borrows from the kit bag of floating blues clich├ęs, he couples them with his own improvised perspective, recycling them in the truest sense, as he does here with the ancient "Poor Boy, Long Way from Home," which emerges as a personal statement rather than a tired recasting of one of the most versioned songs in the blues canon. Other highlights include the powerful "Cane Cut Man," "Things All Wrong With Me," which features some nice jackknife slide, and "What a Shape I'm In." With excellent liner notes and track-by-track annotation, Poor Bob's Blues makes a perfect introduction to this truly one-of-a-kind bluesman.

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