Various Artists

The Best There Ever Was: The Legendary Early Blues Performers

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Yazoo Records has long been one of the prime sources for rural blues reissues from the 1920s and '30s. Transferred from old 78s, some so rare only a single copy or two are known to exist, these tracks offer a wonderful glimpse into a fabled blues past. Essentially a kind of greatest-hits collection for Yazoo, The Best There Ever Was features lesser known songs from several giants of the genre (Blind Willie Johnson's "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole," Charley Patton's "It Won't Be Long," Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Prison Cell Blues") that exhibit the same sort of range and power of their better known works. Also included are stellar tracks from more obscure performers, making the end result a great introduction to country blues. Highlights include the high tenor voice of Sam Collins on "Graveyard Digger's Blues" (a variant of "Sugar Babe," perhaps best known as performed by blues banjoist Dock Boggs), the taut guitar work of Garfield Akers on "Dough Roller Blues," and Geeshie Wiley's forlorn, haunting, and absolutely stirring vocal take on "Last Kind Word Blues." Classic songs by Skip James ("Cypress Grove"), Tommy Johnson ("Big Road Blues"), and Son House ("My Black Mama") round out an impressive track list.

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