Various Artists

The End of an Era: 20 Years in Bluesland

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Although the liner notes to this 14-track blues collection are otherwise thorough, one not so insignificant element is missing: the original release and recording dates of the material. The common thread seems to be that they were all produced by Fred James, who also plays guitar on all of the cuts, one of which, the instrumental "Herb Stuffing," is credited to James himself. Though James also wrote the notes, the time frame of the tracks (four of which were previously unissued) is maddeningly unspecific, though it can be deduced that they were all done sometime in the 20 years prior to this 2010 release. At any rate, these are pretty average, workmanlike contemporary electric blues, not many of them by big names in the field, with Earl Gaines, Frank Frost, Sam Lay, and Johnny Jones being the biggest. Sometimes performances of particular strength cut through to get noticed, especially Gaines' ballad "I Believe in Your Love," which has a rich and moving vibrato vocal. James is a decent and versatile guitarist, too, but in part owing to the substandard documentation, it's not a notable compilation of 20th into 21st century blues.

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