Blind Boy Fuller

The Essential

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A masterful guitar player and a nimble, expressive vocalist, North Carolina's Blind Boy Fuller was a street musician who lived fast and died young at the age of 33, somehow managing to compress a lifetime's worth of recording into a few short years between 1935-1940. His mixture of slide, ragtime, pop, and blues, with just a hint off Appalachia thrown in, practically defines the Piedmont blues tradition, and the sound of Fuller's National Steel guitar is as distinctive as any in the prewar blues era. This two-disc collection has all the songs generally associated with Fuller, including his signature tunes "Rag Mama Rag," "Trucking My Blues Away," and his version of J.B. Long's "Step It Up and Go." Variety was not Fuller's forte, however, and the predominance of ragtime material here, although wonderfully played, quickly gets repetitive after a couple of tracks and, in the end, it is the non-rag pieces that stick out the most, particularly a pair of sacred songs ("No Stranger Now," "Twelve Gates to the City") recorded less than a year before his death.

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