Various Artists

The Birth of Modern Blues

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This surprisingly cohesive set collects the complete 1950s recordings of Fenton Robinson, Little Milton, Little Junior Parker, Earl Forest, Johnny Ace, and Bobby "Blue" Bland for the various Bihari Brothers labels (Meteor, Flair, and Modern) and adds four cuts from B.B. King's 1950 session for RPM Records. The result is a nice anthology of mostly uptown blues tracks highlighted by Robinson's impressive and soulful "Tennessee Woman," Forest's deliciously loose "Rumpus Romp," Bland's early signature tune "Drifting from Town to Town," and King's "B.B.'s Boogie," which finds the guitarist honking along joyously on a semi-improvised vamp. A young Matt Murphy is featured on guitar on Junior Parker's two sides.

blue highlight denotes track pick