Various Artists

Prison Blues [Catfish]

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Prison Blues [Catfish] Review

by Steve Leggett

The nomadic lifestyle of the blues performer in the American South in the 1920s and '30s, coupled with the necessity of plying one's trade in juke joints and gin mills, often led to incarceration, and songs about jailhouses and prison farms abound. Catfish Records, a fine blues reissue label out of London, has collected some two dozen of those laments here, remastered from the original 78s. They range from the familiar (Leadbelly's "Midnight Special") to the obscure (Peg Leg Howell's "New Prison Blues," which contains the line "drink your blood like wine," cribbed by Bob Dylan for "Stuck Inside of Mobile"), from the resigned (Blind Boy Fuller's "Big House Bound") to the humorous (in "Christmas in Jail, Ain't That a Pain," Leroy Carr pleads with Santa to give him a break). Also includes Bukka White's thundering original version of "Parchman Farm Blues."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Kokomo Arnold 03:04 Amazon
2 Ed Bell 02:45 Amazon
3 Jim Jackson 03:00 Amazon
4 Alice Moore / Ike Rodgers / Henry Thomas 03:18 Amazon
5 Buddy Boy Hawkins 02:30 Amazon
6 Scrapper Blackwell / Leroy Carr 03:12 Amazon
7 Sylvester Weaver 03:04 Amazon
8 Blind Lemon Jefferson 02:47 Amazon
9 Lead Belly 02:04 Amazon
10 Champion Jack Dupree 03:17 Amazon
11 Mae Glover / James Parker 02:40 Amazon
12 Peg Leg Howell 03:16 Amazon
13 Fred McMullen / Curley Weaver 03:05 Amazon
14 Bo Carter 03:31 Amazon
15 Jesse Wadley 02:32 Amazon
16 Big Maceo / Tampa Red 02:54 Amazon
17 Blind John Davis / Merline Johnson / Ransom Knowling / Bill Settles 02:46 Amazon
18 Funny Paper Smith 02:53 Amazon
19 Blind Boy Fuller / Sonny Terry 02:41 Amazon
20 Julius Daniels 03:04 Amazon
21 Blind Blake / Alex Robinson 02:38 Amazon
22 Bukka White 02:40 Amazon
23
Frank Bushy / Bill Gaither / Honey Hill 03:04 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick