Saturday Single No. 271

Some time ago, while wandering through the offerings at Amazon, I happened upon a listing for a four-CD set titled That’s What They Want: Jook Joint Blues, subtitled “Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943-56.”

I’ve been fascinated for some time – as long-time readers likely know – with the era when the strains of blues, R&B and country music recombined into the music we call rock ’n’ roll. So the box set – compiled by a British label, JSP Records – made its way pretty quickly into my basket, along with a companion set called Juke Joint Blues 2 and a third set titled Chicago Is Just That Way, featuring blues from that city from the years 1938 to 1954.

Those sets arrived in the weeks before the holidays, and I’ve been happily busy ever since, ripping the ten CDs to mp3s and then sorting out the tags for the mp3s. The CD sets have pretty good annotation, listing – as much as possible – recording dates, locations and personnel. The records’ catalog numbers are not included, probably because the sets were released in Britain, but I keep handy a listing of websites where I can find that information. Having to look in two places makes the process of tagging a little more cumbersome, but it’s still fun.

And the listening has been, for the most part, good. Some of the tracks have a lot of surface noise or poor sound quality, but those have been few.

So sorting the tags on those 278 tracks has been keeping me busy; I have a ways to go on those yet. For some reason, the Texas Gal seems to think that dusting, cooking and taking care of the catboys is more important than figuring out the catalog number for Tarheel Slim’s 1954 recording of “Too Much Competition.” (It appears to have been Red Robin 24.) So I have to temper my enthusiasm for my new old music with the requirements of everyday life, which means that the cataloging process here is slow.

And this week, I added to the pile of tracks to catalog. For Christmas, the Texas Gal gave me a gift card for Amazon. So on Christmas night, I selected two more four-CD sets from JSP: When the Levee Breaks: Mississippi Blues, Rare Cuts 1926-1941 and Memphis Blues: Important Postwar Blues. Those arrived this week, adding another 211 tracks for me to enjoy and catalog. (I sometimes think I enjoy the research and cataloging almost as much as I enjoy the music.)

But I’m sometimes baffled by my enthusiasm for music that was recorded – for the most part – before I was born, music that stems from a culture distant from mine in many ways. What is it that draws me in those directions: to Chicago, to Memphis, to Mississippi and on into the past? I ponder that as I sort catalog numbers and recording dates, and I have no answers. All I know is that the music moves me. I hear, as one example, the blues harp intro to Frank Edwards’ “Gotta Get Together” and I’m pulled toward it. I have some theories why, and I dabble with those, but maybe the more important thing is accepting that we love what we love when we find it.

That’s enough to know right now, with the riches of new old music and the equally important business of keeping up with daily life heaped on my plate. So for good chunks of the coming days, my little corner of the universe will continue to sound alternately like a Mississippi juke joint, a Memphis radio station or a Chicago recording studio. And as I’m sorting my way through those nearly 500 tunes new to my collection, I’ll also – if only on a subconscious level – be sorting my way as best I can to an understanding of where that music fits into my life and why it seems these days to be essential to me.

One of the reasons that I love many of the tracks I’ve found in these new sets, of course, is that they just flat rock. As an example, take Joe Hill Louis’ “Hydramatic Woman.” Recorded in Memphis in May of 1953 – about four months before I was born – it owes a substantial debt to Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88.” But with Big Walter Horton blowing his harp around Louis’ vocal and Albert Williams’ piano riffs (the drummer’s name is unknown), it still boogies. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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One Response to “Saturday Single No. 271”

  1. […] addition, as my recent post about the historical anthologies new to my collection indicates, I also explore music in the other […]

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