on 21 December 2001
My copy of this CD is subtitled "Ragtime guitar's foremost fingerpicker." Is this just advertising hype? (After all most CDs of 1920s/30s recordings seem to be designated "King of.." or "Founder of.." or "Greatest of.."!) Blake was a true innovator and a guitar virtuoso with a polished, professional sound that probably derived from having played in bands. His uniqueness lies in his bass rhythm. Whereas most fingerstyle blues guitarists of the time were playing a steady bass against which they played the melody notes, Blake threw in extra bass beats. This is hard to explain but instead of his bass rhythm sounding a bit like "dum-dum dum-dum dum-dum.." it's more like "da-dum dum-dum da-dum.." Many critics think this was a deliberate attempt to imitate the Charleston rhythm.
Most of Blake's tunes, both the slower blues like "Police dog blues" or "Rope stretching" and the more up tempo ragtime ones like "Diddie wa diddie" or "Blind Arthur's breakdown" have this wonderful bounce to them, and despite the variable sound quality, this CD is really a "must" for any early blues or acoustic guitar fan.