Big Bill Broonzy

The Blues: Chicago 1937-1945

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Released in 2002 by Fremeaux & Associes, The Blues: Chicago 1937-1945 is an exceptionally fine 36-track anthology of recordings made for the ARC, Vocalion, Okeh, and Columbia labels by Big Bill Broonzy during a period when he collaborated with some of the Windy City's most sure-footed players. In addition to pianists Blind John Davis, Joshua Altheimer, Horace Malcolm, Memphis Slim, and Big Maceo Merriweather, Broonzy is heard with trumpeters Punch Miller and Alfred Bell; clarinetist Odell Rand, saxophonists Buster Bennett and Bill Osborne; blues harpist Jazz Gillum, and a jug blower by the name of Oliver Nelson. Listen also for electrically amplified guitarist George Barnes, bassists Ransom Knowling and Bill Settles; and percussionists Judge Riley, Fred Williams, and Washboard Sam. Fremeaux's selections are generally well chosen, and on this, the label's only Broonzy collection to date, the records document his progress from the late '30s into a decade when the world became convulsed by war and the accelerated pace of life began to be reflected in the music. In essence, the period sampled on this collection was Broonzy's first golden age. During the '50s he would become a living archetype of the blues in his own land and especially in Europe. While his way of handling the guitar was always substantial and pleasant, the main reason to listen to Big Bill is to absorb the incredible magic of his warm and expressive voice. This double-disc set is recommended for anyone who loves or would like to learn to love the blues as it sounded at the end of the Great Depression and during the Second World War.

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