This compilation features some of the best of the Blues - both rural and urban - from hotbeds such as Shreveport and Detroit that artists originally laid down for the Ballen Record Company.
Includes liner notes by Chris Smith.
Liner Note Author: Chris Smith .
From the scratchy, crunchy opening cuts by Houston-based Wright Holmes -- scraping and surging away on his instrument while seemingly improvising a stream-of-consciousness lyric -- this is a killer blues anthology from a totally improbable source. Ivin Ballen's record labels were based in Philadelphia, which was hardly known as a stopover, much less a home for the blues, but he licensed a string of these tracks for use on his own two labels, Gotham and 20th Century (no relation to the movie studio-spawned operation of similar name), and some of the artists represented got their first airings through his efforts. Among the others, Sonny Boy Johnson, heard here in "Quinsella," was very obviously a devotee of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, and not a bad singer in his own right. Wright Holmes' "Drove Home Blues" shows a man at work who could have been a potential rival to Muddy Waters under the right circumstances, as a singer and guitarist. And Waters's first commercial record release, "Mean Red Spider" (released credited to "James Carter") is another highlight here, featuring the future Chicago blues legend accompanied by alto and soprano sax, no less. The CD contain four bonus tracks, two credited to W. Harris and one each to Eddie Burns and David Pete McKinley -- Harris, whoever he was, was a potential rival to Jimmy Rushing with some superb guitar and piano accompaniment. The sound quality on this release is about what one would expect, from a collection of obscure electric blues sides cut mostly on lacquer masters circa 1947-48, but the producers have done their best to make them sound good to modern ears without compromising the essential musical qualities. The annotation is very thorough, within the narrow limits of what is known about many of these artists. ~ Bruce Eder