Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
Folkways might be most known for recording traditional folk and ethnic music, but the label did cut a good deal of blues and jazz while it was in operation. Classic Piano Blues has 20 blues songs in which the piano is the most prominent instrument in the arrangement, and while recording dates are not given for all of the tracks, it seems reasonable to assume they roughly span the early '40s to the mid-'70s. A bunch of major names in the blues field are here, including Memphis Slim, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Champion Jack Dupree, Henry Townsend, Victoria Spivey, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, James P. Johnson, and Leadbelly (not a misprint; on his selection "Big...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
Folkways might be most known for recording traditional folk and ethnic music, but the label did cut a good deal of blues and jazz while it was in operation. Classic Piano Blues has 20 blues songs in which the piano is the most prominent instrument in the arrangement, and while recording dates are not given for all of the tracks, it seems reasonable to assume they roughly span the early '40s to the mid-'70s. A bunch of major names in the blues field are here, including Memphis Slim, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Champion Jack Dupree, Henry Townsend, Victoria Spivey, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, James P. Johnson, and Leadbelly (not a misprint; on his selection "Big Fat Woman," he sings and plays piano, though he's primarily known as a guitarist). Because Folkways was one of the least overtly commercial labels of the mid-20th century, some listeners might find some of this too dryly recorded, as if it's done with at least some concern for folkloric preservation rather than popular appeal. Certainly a high percentage of this features only piano and vocal (and sometimes only piano), though some other accompanists do get in on the act on some selections. But while it might not be the most dance-oriented of collections (though there are some pretty fast-paced cuts), there's a decent variety of material by good blues piano players, ranging from instrumentals to boogies, ballads, laments, jazz blues, and near R&B. Spivey's "You're My Man" and Johnson's "Hesitation Blues" are highlights of a respectable collection, though those with less specialized blues tastes might grow weary of the emphasis on numbers with basic melodic progressions and arrangements.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/24/2008
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • UPC: 093074019627
  • Catalog Number: 40196
  • Sales rank: 78,828

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Dedication to Pete Johnson - Memphis Slim (3:15)
  2. 2 Early in the Morning (3:09)
  3. 3 How Long Blues (3:23)
  4. 4 Yellow Dog Blues - Katherine Handy Lewis (3:01)
  5. 5 Key to the Highway - Jazz Gillum (2:58)
  6. 6 Medium Blues - Meade "Lux" Lewis (2:55)
  7. 7 Black Wolf Blues (3:01)
  8. 8 Dices Blues (4:58)
  9. 9 Big Fat Woman (1:14)
  10. 10 Harlem Parlor Blues - Sammy Price (2:55)
  11. 11 Little Drops of Water - Edith North Johnson (3:07)
  12. 12 Pinetop's Boogie Woogie (4:12)
  13. 13 Pinetop's Boogie Woogie (3:31)
  14. 14 Wish Me Well - Memphis Slim (2:14)
  15. 15 All My Money's Gone - Henry Townsend (2:57)
  16. 16 You're My Man (4:37)
  17. 17 On My Way to See Moe Asch (4:25)
  18. 18 Sweet Old Chicago - Roosevelt Sykes (2:59)
  19. 19 No Special Rider Blues (3:33)
  20. 20 Hesitation Blues - James P. Johnson (3:04)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Willie Dixon Bass
Champion Jack Dupree Piano, Vocals
Lead Belly Piano, Vocals
Memphis Slim Piano, Vocals
Little Brother Montgomery Piano, Vocals
Matt "Guitar" Murphy Guitar
Victoria Spivey Piano, Vocals
Roosevelt Sykes Piano, Vocals
Henry Townsend Piano
James P. Johnson Piano, Performing Ensemble
Katherine Handy Lewis Vocals
Big Chief Ellis Piano, Vocals
Sammy Price Piano
Henry Brown Piano
John Cephas Guitar
Jazz Gillum Harmonica, Vocals
Booker T. Laury Piano, Vocals
Meade "Lux" Lewis Piano
Rufus G. Perryman Piano, Vocals
Phil Wiggins Harmonica
Edith North Johnson Vocals
Chris Lange Guitar
Bobby Reutwiler Washboard
Fritz Rüegg Bass
Technical Credits
Big Bill Broonzy Composer
Leroy Carr Composer
Champion Jack Dupree Composer
Victoria Spivey Composer
Roosevelt Sykes Composer
Sammy Price Composer
Moses Asch Engineer
Samuel Charters Engineer
Peter Chatman Composer
Wilbert Ellis Composer
Huddie Ledbetter Arranger
Meade "Lux" Lewis Composer
Eurreal Montgomery Composer
Jeff Place Liner Notes, Annotation
Walter Roland Composer
Pete Reiniger Engineer
Charles Segar Composer
D.A. Sonneborn Executive Producer
Ben Shahn Cover Photo
Robert Oswald Engineer
Nate Utesch Tray Card
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