I've sometimes wondered where the blues-rock band Canned Heat got their excellent name, and it seems they took it from an old blues number, sung on this wonderful compilation by one Sloppy Henry. The brief notes, by the ubiquitous Michael Heatley, tell us nothing about this man, or his rather unfortunate nickname, nor do they go into much detail about any of the singers and musicians on these two well-filled discs. And this is one compilation I would love to have had more details about, from the various obscure female singers featured to such mists-of-time figures as Texas Alexander, the Birmingham Jug Band, Shithcher Roberts, and the splendidly named Blues Birdhead.
One big plus of this welcome selection frrom OKeH is the preponderance of woman blues singers, only a handful of whom I'd heard of, such as Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, Victoria Spivey, and of course Memphis Minnie. Others include Mary Copeland, Rosa Henderson, Irene Scruggs, Bertha Chippie Hill, Dora Carr, Esther Bigeou, Rosetta Crawford, Sara Martin, Gladys Bentley, Ada Brown, Carrie Edwards, Margaret Johnson, and the marvellous Mississippi Bracey, whose You Scolded Me and Drove Me From Your Door is worth a few minutes of anybody's time.
There are also some big names here, for example Blind Lemon Jefferson, Roosevelt Sykes, the great Blind Willie McTell, Champion Jack Dupree, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee (on separate tracks), Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Lonnie Johnson, and even jazz veteran W.C. Handy. The excellent Mississippi Sheiks close CD1 with Sitting On Top of the World in fine fashion.
There are one or two tracks that don't hold the interest, but on the whole this is a superb collection of fifty mostly very old (20s/30s) blues numbers from the OKeH vaults.
The pity is there is so little documentation. Would very brief biographies of the artists have been too much to ask? There are a few photos, of eleven of the fifty featured blues men & women. Nice packaging, and a fine thing to own and listen to, but a little more about the less Wiki-friendly singers and musicians would have made this a five-star triumph.
A lot of great blues, though!
Despite quibbles, warmly recommended.