Them Dirty Blues

Various Artists

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Them Dirty Blues Review

by Lindsay Planer

This five-volume collection includes over six-dozen sexy sides from a plethora of early 20th century rhythm & blues artists. Although there are a multitude of similarly titled copulation compiles, this Jass Records box set is far and away the most thorough. Much of the material would influence and inspire future blues variations on a respective theme -- such as the multitude of renderings of "Shave ‘Em Dry." On this collection, that naughty nugget is captured in its incipient form by Papa Charlie Jackson, rather than the more common Lucille Bogan recording. The same can be said for Blind Boy Fuller's "What's That Smells Like Fish" which became "Keep On Truckin'" for the likes of Mance Lipscomb, Donovan, and most notably, Hot Tuna. A similar transmutation can be traced from Ma Rainey's "Two Old Maids in a Folding Bed" which became "Ain't It Crazy" once Lightnin' Hopkins got a hold of it. It was Hopkins' version that Ronald "Pigpen" McKernan brought to Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a precursor to the Grateful Dead, who also performed the song upon occasion. There are other performances of historical note, such as Josh White, who recorded "Sissy Man" under the pseudonym of Pinewood Tom, as well as Memphis Minnie's "If You See My Rooster," which ultimately begat Willie Dixon's standard "Little Red Rooster." However, much of the adventure inherent on Them Dirty Blues is hearing the raw and ribald nature of the lesser or unknown tracks, which can vacillate wildly depending upon the respective listener's previous exposure to this material. The non-PC attitude of Bo Carter's "Please Warm My Weiner" or the Hokum Boys "Caught Us Doin' It" and "Somebody's Been Using That Thang" is a touchstone to a decidedly simpler era who incorporated humor -- rather than anger -- in their musical depictions of sexuality. In the wake of the aggression unleashed by the R&B, hip-hop, and gangsta nations of the early 21st century, these dirty ditties are comparably innocent. As one might presume, the vast majority of these tracks have been transcribed from surviving vinyl discs and a caveat of anticipated variable sound quality should be expected.

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