Vanguard: Roots of the Blues
This three-CD set draws from the Vanguard catalog of blues performances, focusing, apparently, mostly on recordings from the 1960s. "Apparently" because, in an act of negligence, no original recording or release dates are given for any of the 45 songs, except for four previously unreleased tracks done at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and one done at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Really, did anyone think that no one would care about such important details? Ignoring that hindrance, these are decent to excellent blues performances, divided into discs for "folk blues", "delta & country blues", and "urban blues." The "folk blues" disc mixes popular white and black performers of the 1960s folk revival, including Dave Van Ronk, Josh White, Eric Von Schmidt, Mance Lipscomb, Tony Glover, Spider John Koerner, Elizabeth Cotten, and John Hammond. It's refreshing how this disc, too, allows room for bluesy performances by artists not associated with the blues, like Bill Monroe (with "Blue Yodel No. 4"), the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the Chambers Brothers (with a live version of "See See Rider"), and Buffy Sainte-Marie, whose previously unissued "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond" (from the 1964 Newport Folk Festival) is a highlight. Disc two has many country blues legends who were rediscovered in the '60s, among them Skip James ("I'm So Glad"), Mississippi John Hurt ("Candy Man"), Rev. Gary Davis ("You Got to Move"), Son House, and Bukka White. Also heard are numbers by less Delta- or country blues-oriented performers like Odetta, Memphis Slim, and Muddy Waters. Disc three gets into the electric Chicago blues sounds of the '60s, with many big names represented: Junior Wells (whose "Messin' With the Kid" is great), Otis Rush, J.B. Hutto, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Charlie Musselwhite, and John Lee Hooker. The liner notes are fairly extensive and tell a little bit about each performer, but again frustratingly don't refer to where these songs were originally released and recorded. That can get misleading when a song is described as a hit or one of the artist's most popular recordings, but the specific track included on this set does not happen to be the original version.