Frank Stokes

The Beale Street Sheiks

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Forget the shaky sound and noise on some of the tracks, and the slightly sketchy notes, and the fact that some tracks on this supposedly "complete" collection are missing -- these are Paramount recordings, and we're lucky to have what we do, as good as it does sound. What's here are 19 songs cut by Frank Stokes and Dan Sane between August of 1927 and March of 1929. Included are lyrics on numbers like "You Shall" (in two different versions, either one worth the price of the disc) that constitute historical artifacts, going back to the era of slavery; topical songs like "Mr. Crump Don't Like It," that tell of Memphis's life and death as a blues Mecca; and infectiously catchy pieces like the sly, witty, supposedly anti-prostitution pieces like "It's a Good Thing" (also in two different versions). At their best, which is most of this CD, they had an appeal that transcended the decades -- the interweaving of the two guitars is about as tight as anything in blues, the rhythms are catchy, and the vocal phrasing by Stokes is delicious.

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