Various Artists

Yonder Come the Blues

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Yonder Come the Blues has a duel life: it serves as a companion disc to the book of the same name and as a thoughtful guide to the birth of the genre now called the blues. Complier Paul Oliver has carefully chosen the tracks. This disc moves briskly from the early syncopations of fife player Othar Turner to the adoption of blues by the North Carolina Ramblers to the waxings of African-American bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. This collection does a better job than most of introducing acoustic blues because of its inclusion of earlier forms of the genre. The first two tracks, "Agbekor" and "Ring Dance," were recorded in Ghana and represent the propulsive rhythms that African slaves brought to America. Thyam Sy Griots plays a halam five-string chordophone on "Halam Improvisation," which sounds sort of like George Harrison playing the blues on a sitar. As the disc moves into its second stage, the listener is treated to Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton's "Sweet Sara Blues" and interestingly, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys' "Brain Cloudy Blues." Finally, selections by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Big Bill Broonzy show the blues settling into a more recognizable form, while Pinetop Burks offers an early version of boogie-woogie. In time, acoustic guitars and pianos replaced fiddles and fifes, and many forgot that there were, indeed, other ways to play the blues. Yonder Come the Blues educates the listener by offering a generous and enjoyable collection that effectively traces the roots of a genre.

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