Desperate Man Blues: Discovering the Roots of American Music
In conjunction with the 2006 DVD documentary of record collector Joe Bussard, Dust-to-Digital released this companion CD, featuring 19 tracks in some of the kind of styles -- rural blues, jazz, and old-timey country music, mostly from the '20s and '30s -- that Bussard loves. Desperate Man Blues: Discovering the Roots of American Music isn't exactly a soundtrack to the documentary, since these records are not featured in their entirety in that film. Rather, it's a survey of some of the highlights of the music in which Bussard specializes, the liner notes featuring track-by-track annotation by Bussard himself. It's an excellent mixture of classics by some of the most esteemed early country and blues giants and the kind of more obscure items that are primarily known only to the type of listeners who covet what Bussard collects. Among the classics are Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues," Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues," Clarence Ashley's "The Coo-Coo Bird," the Carter Family's "John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man," and the very first version of "Stack O' Lee Blues" ever made (by Cleve Reed and Harvey Hull, in 1927). Other big names on the CD are Son House, Charley Patton, Lonnie Johnson, and Uncle Dave Macon. Yet there are also quite a few tracks by lesser known and little-known artists, like Lane Hardin's "Hard Time Blues" (the only record he made); Jimmy Murphy's "We Live a Long Long Time" (a witty yet wistful 1955 recording that Bussard refers to as the last country record made in Nashville); and the raw one-man electric blues of Joe Hill Louis' "When I'm Gone." Another highlight is Blind Willie Johnson's chillingly haunting, wordlessly sung slide guitar blues "Dark Was the Night," which Bussard describes as "the most incredible record I have ever heard." Of course there are tons more records, and even many other compilations, covering similar ground. But this is a very good anthology for those who want an introduction to this kind of stuff, or those who want compilations that focus on some of the best of it, with sound transfers that eliminate as much of the extraneous noise from these aged recordings as possible.