Washboard Sam

She Belongs to the Devil

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Washboard Sam was a pivotal figure in the late '30s and 1940s on the Chicago prewar blues scene, taking country hokum concepts to the city and to the edge of R&B and even small-combo jazz. Yes, he played washboard (complete with a self-mounted cowbell), usually in the same rhythm, but a case could be made that he got everything possible out of its percussive capabilities. His real strength was his rich, strong voice, which always carried a kind of unfettered joy, and his ability to perfectly straddle the line between rural and urban sounds, which made him an immensely popular performer wherever he played. This two-disc set collects several of his Bluebird recordings, made between 1936 and 1947, and features Sam doing his thing with the likes of Big Bill Broonzy (Washboard's stepbrother), Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Frank Owens, Ransom Knowling, and a young Willie Dixon. This is good-time acoustic blues and if it gets a bit repetitive, well, it's the blues and it isn't about variety. With 40 tracks of this stuff, She Belongs to the Devil will be all most listeners will ever need (and maybe then some).

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