Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell, Vol. 3 (1959-1960)

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Austria's Document Records apparently had this 22-track, 75-minute CD out in 1994, but it only started coming into the U.S. in 1996, and doesn't even show up in some reference sources. Scrapper Blackwell's all-too-brief comeback at the end of the 1950s is well represented by a dozen songs from a live concert at Indianapolis' 1444 Gallery from September 20, 1959, some teaming Blackwell with singer Brooks Berry, paired off with ten tracks from Blackwell's 1960 British-only album on Dave Dobell's 77 label. Blackwell's technique on the guitar had not suffered at all from his nearly 20-year layoff from performing -- he finesses sounds from his acoustic instrument that are soft and glittering, utilizing melody notes and carefully varied rhythms, and six of the tracks here are guitar solos, all of which are fascinating on repeated listening. His piano playing is also represented on one track. Blackwell's voice lacks some of the resonance that it had on his 1930s recordings, and, if anything, the sadness in his persona is even more pronounced this late in his career, but he imbues his work with an intense passion that makes it compelling to hear. The worth of these performances makes his death, during an apparent mugging in 1962, all the more tragic, for more than almost any blues figure -- including Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy -- who almost made it to the folk/blues revival, Blackwell shows here how he could have reached millions with his work, had he lived only a couple of years longer. Oh, and the apology made by the producers for the sound quality of the 1959 concert tape (provided by Duncan Schmidt, who also appears on a track or two) is utterly unnecessary.

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