8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Flashes of brilliance
, 24 April 2011
This review is from: Fixin' To Die (Audio CD)
The music on this CD has been described as coming from the last great classic country blues recording session but already by the late thirties when this music was made, a gulf had opened up between the kind of legendary performances executed between the mid twenties and early thirties. By the time Bukka White entered the studio to make these tracks, the home-spun nature of the recording industry emerged from the Depression very much more commercial as well as savvy to the increasingly sophisticated tastes of the record buying public. As a consequence, I think the music is not quite as compelling as the efforts of an earlier generation of performers.
There are some great tracks on this disc. The first four numbers on this CD are fabulous and there are other gems like "Fixin' to die" which are pretty much essential too. I particularly like the spirited field recording "Po' Boy" which transcends the scratchy recording quality. At it's best, this music is brilliant as witnessed by "Shake 'em on down" and the wonderful "Special streamline." However, there is too little variety over the course of the 60 minutes of this disc and the gruff sound of White's voice is a case of a little goes a long way. The other downside is the use of a washboard which very much distracts from what is going on in the record - it almost feels like White was not confident about his time -keeping. This feels at odds with tracks like "Bukka' jitterbug swing" which reflects the then (1940) current dance craze. As someone who also prefers the picking style of guitar as championed by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Willie McTell, I think the guitar playing is not quite of the same calibre as the more celebrated or even legendary players of the Blues. Clearly, White is not in the same league as Hurt or McTell and there is the faint air of the amateur about these records. The material is very similar to someone like Charlie Patten in the evocation of the poverty experienced by White's contemporaries and this is far more of a social commentary than anything else with reference made to many small, American towns which will be unfamiliar to those living outside of the periphery of the particular State. There are also quite a few references to trains.
I think there are moments of greatness on this CD and although I would acknowledge that Bukka White is highly considered in some quarters, there is a feeling of him having missed the boat in the pantheon of great country blues guitarists. He was almost 10-15 after his time. The "Complete Blues Series" are exceptional value for money and a great way of getting in to this music for a newcomer such as myself. I've got several of these in my collection and have been spell-bound by this music. This CD is pretty good but not quite up to the same standard as the two, aforementioned musicians nor Charlie Patten or Blind Lemon Jefferson for that matter. The sound quality is also a marked improvement from what you often get when you are a fan of vintage, country blues. I would recommend this disc but newcomers should perhaps go for the more famous names where, in my opinion, the primordial nature of the music has the greater clout. An interesting purchase never-the-less and the budget price allows you to explore for little more than a pint of beer.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?