This collection, of informal recordings of rural African American folk music and songs, was taped mostly in the homes of several of the singers and musicians from southwest Louisiana during the late 1950s and early 60s by Dr. Harry Oster.
Includes all of the ARH LP 2018 by the same title plus many previously unissued selections.
1. 44 Blues
2. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues
3. Smokestack Lightning
4. Who Broke The Lock
5. You Don't Love Me
6. It's The Sign Of The Judgement
8. Your Dice Won't Pass
9. Jelly Roll
10. I've Got Religion
11. Going Downtown Boogie
12. Stack O' Dollars
13. Brown Skin Woman
14. I Won't Be Your Low-Down Dog No More
15. The Piano Blues
16. Cotton Field Blues
17. The Farm Blues
18. The Boss Man Blues
19. Whoa Mule!
20. Boll Weevil Blues
21. Thousand Miles From Nowhere
22. Dead And Gone
23. Called For You Yesterday
24. Me & My Chauffeur
25. Baby Please Don't Go
“The title is accurate to a time and place: Southwestern Louisiana between 1959 and 1962. The folklorist Harry Oster did a series of field recordings, informal `jams'with a group of obscure blues men and women, only one of whom, Robert Pete Williams, won fame.
Williams was singular in composing stream-of-consciousness blues, support-ed by a guitar style as jarring for blues as Monk was for jazz piano. But Williams sounds nearly traditional compared to others in these recordings. Butch Cage plays fiddle in a nineteenth-century style now gone. And Cage himself sounds nearly conventional compared to the unknown resident of a state mental hospital who does a high-pitched whoop (a la Sonny Terry) into a Coke bottle while other inmates bang wood blocks. (*)
In case you're wondering how a seventy-seven-minute disc with such diversity can cohere, let me assure you it does, and plenty. I've never heard a better, `rootsier' blues collection in my life, and when I wore out my vinyl album, I sadly wondered, who would ever bother to release this on disc? It's here, and if you have a taste for relaxed, funky, real-gone, real back-porch blues, it's a must.”
(Norman Weinstein — Los Angeles Reader)
(*) This extraordinary item was featured a some years ago on National Public Radio and caused a flurry of inquiries to our office!
“This CD is an augmented version of a celebrated LP released first by Harry Oster in the early 1960s and subsequently by Arhoolie. In essence, it is a sampler of extraordinary music recorded by Oster in Louisiana during the 1950s and early 1960s. As with the original, the anthology is founded on performances by Willie B. Thomas (vocal & guitar) and James `Butch' Cage (vocal & fiddle). Cage's fiddle playing also accompanies Clarence and Cornelius Edwards.
Harry Oster had an extraordinary ability to coax high-quality performances from all the musicians he recorded and this CD proves no exception. `Whoa Mule' and the other four traditional pieces, by Cage and Thomas, were obtained by Strachwitz and Paul Oliver during their seminal field recording expedition in 1960 and if there is a difference between these and the other selections it is in repertoire. Oster was driven by an interest in the lyrical imagery of blues verses, Strachwitz and Oliver indocumenting representative styles of past black music. Dance music and versions of old songs are the substance of their recordings.
In his book `Living Country Blues' Oster has classified by subject many of the songs he collected in Louisiana. Lyrics to most of the items in this CD are printed in the book, including five of the additional selections, all of which revolve around the theme of work`Boll Weevil Blues,' `Cotton Field Blues,' `Thousand Miles From Nowhere,' `The Farm Blues,' and `Gettin' Late In The Evening.' The latter is performed by Otis Webster in the form of a `holler,' to guitar accompaniment. The other new song, `The Piano Blues,' by Butch Cage and Willie B. Thomas, is concerned with drink.
While lyrical themes are of consequence, the greatest asset of this collection is the uninhibited performances, many of which are dances to string band accompaniment with Cage's magnificent fiddle playing to the fore. Cage and Thomas also contribute one of two religious pieces, `It's The Sign Of Judgement.' The other, `I've Got Religion,' is sung a cappella by Rebecca Smith, Tom Miller and Ruth Miller. `Foxhunt' by Ben Douglas is a rhythmic instrumental, with percussion on a Coke bottle and sticks beaten against wooden cylinders. Robert Pete Williams' `Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,' Sally Dobson and Smoky Babe's 'Your Dice Won't Pass,' 'Goin' Downtown Boogie' by Babe himself (Robert Brown) and Len Strickland's 'I Won't Be Your Lowdown Dog No More' round out the collection. All have guitar accompaniment, Strickland with washboard and other percussion.
For enthusiasts of 'acoustic' blues this CD represents almost 77 minutes of pure enjoyment. Those unfamiliar, who take the plunge with this selection, will not be disappointed.”
(John Cowley — Musical Traditions)