Melvin "Lil Son" Jackson was the last of a long line of Texas country blues players, and in many ways he was the most polished, playing steadier guitar than Lightnin' Hopkins, the Texas bluesman he most resembles, and his cool, clear vocals carried his stories of romantically wounded ramblers out of the realm of cliché and into the territory of actual narrative, which is probably the only really modern thing about Jackson's early recorded work. He worked off of the old country blues forms and themes, but in adapting them to his own needs, he personalized them just enough to give them singularity. Thus "Milford Blues," which is presented here as part of this collection of Jackson's earliest recorded sides for Bill Quinn's Gold Star Records, draws from the lines and structure of the traditional blues "Deep Blue Sea," but in Jackson's hands it becomes a steady narrative instead of a stock assemblage of old blues clichés, even though that's still really what it is. It's a pretty nifty trick, and Jackson had it down. This set from Document includes material Jackson recorded between 1948 and 1950, all of it featuring Jackson singing solo to his own acoustic or electric guitar accompaniment, and it is a true delight, with wonderful versions of "Roberta Blues," the magnificent "Freedom Train Blues," the aforementioned "Milford Blues," and Jackson's own version of his main claim to immortality, "Rockin' and Rollin'," which morphed over time into the blues standard "Rock Me Baby." Jackson's smoothed-out rustic delivery gives everything a kind of internal coherence, and makes him seem less erratic than a player like Hopkins, even as he worked similar territory. And like Hopkins, Jackson ran into problems when he began working with small combos later in his career, due to the little rhythmic eccentricities in his playing. These early solo sides are really Jackson in his natural state, though, and make up what is arguably his best work.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett