Monty Sunshine

The Sunshine of Your Blues

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Continuing Lake's magnificent exhumation of producer Denis Preston's Lansdowne Studios Record Supervision archive, The Sunshine of Your Blues rounds up a series of recordings made for Columbia during 1961-1962, following Monty Sunshine's departure from the Chris Barber Band. (One number, "Do Lord," predates that watershed.) As such, it follows easily in the footsteps of the manifold solo outings he enjoyed during his time with that group, beginning with his debut solo single, Sidney Bechet's "Jacqueline." For the public at large, Sunshine was best remembered as the featured soloist on the Barber group's hit rendition of Bechet's "Petit Fleur," and this was clearly an attempt to restate those same virtues. Commercially, it failed, but musically it was a runaway success -- an attribute it shared with its B-side, Sunshine's own now-classic "The Sunshine of Your Blues." There are some remarkable recordings here, not only from a musical point of view, but also technologically. "Creole Love Call," from 1961, finds producer Preston playing with multi-tracking, to give listeners three separate clarinet tracks, all played by Sunshine, of course -- it seems incredible today, but such trickery was considered highly controversial at the time! Elsewhere, however, the album rattles along without a misplaced footing. With Beryl Bryden stepping in on vocals, "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" is a raucous singalong that readily conjures up the smoky nightclubs in which Sunshine and company were most at home. Later in the cycle, Bryden contributes a magnificent washboard solo (the aptly titled "Coney Island Washboard"), but her own pièce de résistance has to be Bessie Smith's "Young Woman Blues," a sultry duet for vocal and muted cornet. Unquestionably one of the British trad scene's all-time greats, this collection of Sunshine's first solo recordings can also be rated among the greatest reflections upon that same era, a multifaceted gem that packs a surprise in almost every track.

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