Bukka White

Sky Songs, Vol. 2

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There are two volumes in this series, but one could make a guess that twice as many boxes of this second volume are sitting on the warehouse shelf, unwanted. That's because eventually word got out that one side of the second volume consisted of a long monologue entitled "Mixed Water," basically the story of how Bukka White got a bunch of people drunk via trickery. If one were to purchase only one Sky Songs volume, some would give the nod to the first in the series, since it is all music. The term "music," however, is vague enough to apply to that album's nearly 14 minutes of piano playing. The second volume of Sky Songs features a higher overall proportion of this artist's wonderful slide steel guitar music, and less piano. As for "Mixed Water," it is a curiosity piece. If recordings such as this had more of an audience, it would be a real boon for journalists, many of whom have stacks of recordings such as this, done for interview sessions and featuring musicians raving about this and that. Over the years, "Mixed Water" sometimes showed up on college radio programs, even getting the montage treatment from the late-'80s crowd of taping weirdos. The length of the pieces would encourage even a sane listener to want to fiddle along, but this was the whole idea of this series and makes it totally unique in the history of country blues recording. White indulged in stream of consciousness improvised songcrafting for these recordings, and was encouraged to go on to his heart's content. The monologue may have been the result of him running out of musical ideas -- his steamroller ran magnificently in only two gears, apparently -- or producer Chris Strachwitz may have felt that this material had enough historical importance to merit the gobble of so much vinyl. Bukka White fans will find a handful of recordings available that present the artist in the confines of a more structured setting, which as disappointing as it is to admit, was actually the way to go with this guy. These records will in turn make the newly fanatic White supremacy converts covet the Sky Songs just because the idea of them will sound so appealing. In the end, the idea is better than the reality, but it sure would be nice if there were recordings like this of other country blues greats.

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