Al Cook

Victrola Blues

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This album is a joyous yet painstakingly authentic modern recreation of blues styles prevalent during the late '20s and early '30s, and Al Cook could have been a potential rival to John Hammond, Jr., based on the evidence here -- as it is, he sounds like he's channeling the sounds of Paramount Records from its early-'30s heyday. He plays unamplified, mostly on the guitar (though he does switch to piano on a couple of cuts), accompanied here and there by harmonica, spoons, a drum, and maybe a rhythm guitarist; his influences in playing and singing are Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, and Son House, all of whom seem to be almost voicing their stuff, seance-like, through him. His playing is technically superb, but even more important is the fact that Cook seems to feel the music in his playing and singing, to the point where he even gives convincing spoken introductions and performances that don't seem incongruous at all. Done on a portable four-track unit, the material also gets about as near to the jerry-rigged set-ups used to record the likes of Patton and Jefferson as one is likely to approach in modern time. Anyone who wants more of the kind of work that Hammond was doing on Vanguard Records in the early/middle-'60s will not go wrong with this disc, which is a loving recreation of authentic Delta blues sounds of the early '30s, unaffected and honest in its execution.

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