Various Artists

Rose Grew Round the Briar, Vol. 2

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The folks at Yazoo have outdone themselves in two genres with this collection of love songs. This is a mixed blues and country release, except that it goes back to a point in the 1920s and 1930s when blues and country weren't always easy to distinguish from each other, so they fit together just fine. Solo bluesmen and white banjo pickers and fiddlers alternate -- St. Louis-based bluesman Clifford Gibson deftly picks "Old Time Rider," followed by a rollicking duet of white Virginia fiddler B.F. Grayson and guitarist Henry Whitter whooping it up on "Handsome Molly," and a journey with a westward tilt, for Ephraim Woody and the Henpecked Husbands doing "Last Gold Dollar," and then a coarser, rougher solo blues lament ("Built Right on the Ground") from Teddy Darby. Among the major luminaries featured are Canadian cowboy singer Wilf Carter (aka Montana Slim) doing "You Are My Sunshine" and Lonnie Johnson, who turns up twice, playing piano (while his Jelly Roll Anderson plays slide) behind Katherine Baker, the only woman privileged to appear here, whose mournful "My Man Left Me" leaves one asking for more, and then back on guitar with his brother James for the brooding, lusty "Baby Won't You Please Come Home." For guitar enthusiasts, the revelation of this album may be the work of Louis Lasky, an almost primordial Chicago bluesman, whose percussive guitar style and topical references make him unique for his era. The sound, except for Dock Boggs' "Lost Love," is generally very good, and the notes are nicely detailed.

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