Various Artists

Shake Your Wicked Knees, Vol. 3: The Piano Blues

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This excellent collection is subtitled "Vocalion 1928-30," and that this label was able to record more than a dozen different and good blues and boogie-woogie pianists in the Chicago area over that time period means the Windy City's fabled long-winded music scene kept the company busy. The Vocalion archive has of course provided the raw material for many a blues compilation and reissue, so consumers may also find a later collection that shares the enticing command to Shake Your Wicked Knees, while featuring some of this material along with other selections by these artists and other members of the Vocalion stable. There are wonderful pianists here who will make amateurs feel as if their arms and hands were made out of pressboard. The titles themselves promise a good time, and deliver as well: "Fat Fanny Stomp" by Jim Clarke, "Head Rag Hop" by Romeo Nelson, and "Texas Shout" by Cow Cow Davenport are among the titles that are not nearly as exuberant as the music they identify. Other songs start with pronouncements of earthshaking importance -- "I'm So Glad I'm Twenty-One Years Old Today," says Joe Dean From Bowling Green -- and then takes the listener through the usual morbid blues thought process while the players manipulate the keys as if sorting through a basket of nuts. Most of the material is performed with solo piano, although there are a couple of tracks in which Tampa Red plays accompaniment or takes the lead with the fine piano work of Bill O'Bryant backing him up. The liner notes are unusually enjoyable. While texts such as this are normally the domain of gushing praise, with negative comments normally left for reviews, this particular album really smashes that mold. Listeners are informed that the final track, "Whoop and Holler Stomp" by Montana Taylor & the Jazoo Boys, has been sequenced in this way so that the listener can simply turn the record off and not suffer what writer Francis Smith indicates is a track that was only included for the quality of Taylor's playing. As for the Jazoo Boys, Smith describes the group as "abominable" and "wretched clowns," whose music is "inept and tuneless chanting." Bad music fanatics, the line forms to the rear.

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