Various Artists

Ruff Stuff: The Roots of Texas Blues Guitar

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A collection Texas blues, 16 songs cut during the mid-'60s, featuring Mance Lipscomb and a brace of lesser-known Texas bluesmen born between 1895 and 1907 and, thus, heirs and successors to the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson and other renowned Texas bluesmen of the '20s and '30s. Strangely, the notes refer to this collection as representing the "heart's blood of [those] anonymous Texas bluesmen who labored by day and played by night," but Lipscomb, at least, is far from anonymous today, mostly thanks to Arhoolie Records' recordings. What is sad is that the rest of the players here are genuinely obscure, but were clearly the equals of Lipscomb or any of his even more celebrated peers from Texas. Babe Stovall (whose nimble-fingered six-minute-plus "Worried Blues" is a highlight of the album), Willie Menifee, Nathaniel "Bill" Barnes, T.J. Jackson, et. al all deserved better. The playing is mostly solo acoustic, although "Corrina, Corrina" gets a solo electric treatment, as a sort of fragmentary instrumental. Other familiar songs given fresh renditions include "Jay Bird Blues" and "Jack O' Diamonds." And just for the record, there's little "ruff" here except the wonderfully spontaneous singing -- the playing is as articulate and unself-consciously beautiful as any acoustic blues you'll ever hear.

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