Personnel: Big Bill Broonzy (guitar).
Audio Remasterer: Robert Vosgien.
Liner Note Authors: Stephen Calt; Michael Stewart; Nick Perls.
Recording information: 1928-1935.
Photographer: Big Bill Broonzy.
Big Bill Broonzy was one of the few country blues musicians of the '20s and '30s to find success when the music evolved into an electric, urbanized form. From his initial sides with Paramount in 1928, he followed the music's development closely. Switching to electric guitar and adding drums to his music in the late 1930s, he helped pave the way for the Chicago bluesmen that followed him. Even though his music continued to contain echoes of his rural background, Broonzy's reversion to a folk-blues style (popular amongst white audiences) in the 1950s was viewed by purists as an inauthentic stance. The truth is that experts have always had a difficult time classifying Broonzy's music. Even on the early sides collected on The Young Bill Broonzy (1928-1935), the guitarist alternates between standard 12-bar fare, brisk rag numbers, guitar and piano duets, and showcases of his flatpicking prowess. Regardless of the setting, however, one thing remains certain: Broonzy's guitar skills are superb. He was an exceptional flatpicker, capable of dazzling with rapid, single note runs. Proof is provided on "I Can't Be Satisfied" (with Hokum Boy Frank Brasswell on second guitar) and the classic "How You Want It Done?" Broonzy was also criticized for relying, more than most, on the key of C (favored by ragtime musicians), though a song like "Skoodle Do Do" demonstrates the guitarist's ability to construct an unconventional arrangement regardless. In addition to Brasswell, Broonzy is joined by Steel Smith (six-string banjo) and Georgia Tom Dorsey (piano) on various selections. Along with the companion set Do That Guitar Rag, this is quite simply the finest collection of Broonzy's timeless, early sides available. ~ Nathan Bush