Various Artists

The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966, Vol. 2 [DVD]

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Like volume one, this DVD has a wealth of performances, most of them apparently totally live, from a top roster of blues artists. Taped in a small TV studio for German television during European tours of the American Folk Blues Festival, the 16 songs include spots by Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sunnyland Slim, Victoria Spivey, Lightnin' Hopkins, Roosevelt Sykes, Matt Murphy, T-Bone Walker, and Big Mama Thornton. If anything, this might be even better than volume one, if only because of the three great songs done by Howlin' Wolf in 1964. Howlin' Wolf was one of the very best live blues performers, and these performances shudder with intensity, particularly "Shake for Me," with longtime sideman Hubert Sumlin on guitar. Also especially worthy of praise are Murphy's ultrafast instrumental "Murphy's Boogie," Dixon's (deliberately) comically stuttering "Nervous," and a lumberjack-wardrobed Big Mama Thornton, whose "Down Home Shakedown" is actually an instrumental showcase featuring her on harmonica, with Walter Horton and John Lee Hooker in support. It's true the low-budget sets can be corny, simplified approximation of American joints and vistas. But that doesn't diminish the excitement of being able to see quality black-and-white footage of these performers at their prime or near-prime, particularly since any footage of the kind is scarce. Also included are two fine "bonus tracks" of Magic Sam performing live in 1969, shortly before his death, and good historical liner notes by Rob Bowman, although these are identical to the ones that appear in volume one, with different illustrations.

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