There are some blues singers who go very deep, to the extent of sounding at times positively scary, such as Son House, Howlin` Wolf or Robert Johnson. Others mine an equally deep seam, though perhaps a little less unsettling, like the urban sound of the peerless Muddy Waters or the seething Elmore James, for whom either the sun is shinin` or the sky is cryin`.
Then there are the lyrical voices of the blues, chief among them the inimitable Lightnin` Hopkins and Sonny Boy Williamson. Buddy Guy & B.B. King are contemporary masters of both guitar and vocal blues, while someone like Jimmy Reed straddled an area between blues and r`n`b. Blind Willie McTell is a glorious one-off, as is Skip James, or a unique belter such as Bessie Smith, or a `blues shouter` like Jimmy Witherspoon or Jimmy Rushing.
Then there are the folk-blues popularisers, among their number Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly - and this man, the irepressible Big Bill Broonzy, born William Lee Conley Broonzy in the last decade of the 19th century, died in 1958 in his sixties and with many sides recorded to testify to his almost unequalled importance in the history of acoustic blues.
Bill was a fine guitarist, a songwriter of note, and a wonderfully dynamic, warm, occasionally wanton singer who at times - when he sings high - can even remind you of Nina Simone! Don`t believe me? Have a listen...
Here, on this tremendous two-and-a-half-hour, two-disc collection of four of the man`s late 40s/early 50s LPs, are forty-five great tracks, possessing a variety and versatility which place Broonzy in the front rank of folk blues singers. It feels like he`s singing in your front room, particularly on the first album `Big Bill`s Blues`, with Bill`s amusingly informal song introductions, a song like Trouble in Mind jostling with See See Rider and Swing Low Sweet Chariot, along with a storming wailing blues called Martha.
Thankfully, the intros are eschewed on the other records represented here, leaving Broonzy to entertain the listener with a typically eclectic selection of blues numbers and others, sometimes with minimal band backing, but more often alone, simply Big Bill and his eloquent guitar. But try track 19 on CD2, You Changed, with full band backing, including sax - it`s terrific.
I can`t imagine a better or more well assembled introduction to this great, genial ambassador of blues in all its forms, sometimes easing towards jazz, at other moments exuding a pure blues sensibility.
It seems Big Bill Broonzy did it all. And it`s all here, on this embarrassment of riches. It`s all good!