Rounder hits the mark with no-frills Box of the Blues



By Steve Newton

Blues fans looking to acquire a worthy cross-section of the genre—but who aren’t up to shelling out big bucks for the premium package centred on Martin Scorsese’s film series The Blues—should consider this compact, no-frills set. The four-disc collection brings together 60 tracks from the Rounder Records catalogue, spanning half a century of music history.

Disc 1 is titled 61 Highway and takes its name from the Mississippi Fred McDowell opening track, which was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1959. The first CD also features recordings by other first-generation players such as Johnny Shines with Robert Lockwood Jr., and Robert Johnson sidekick David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Standout tracks include former Muddy Waters pianist Otis Spann’s heartfelt “Blues for Martin Luther King” and slide-guitar ace Robert Nighthawk’s poison-tongued “Cheating and Lying Blues”.

The second disc, titled One More Mile after Gatemouth Brown’s swinging track of ’82, offers full-ensemble performances of more “city-style” blues. Electric- and slide-guitar fans get their fill with licks provided by such Chicago pickers as Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Jimmy Rogers, J. B. Hutto, and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson.

Disc 3, Change in My Pocket, is also the title of a rollicking number by Texas rockers Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, and includes performances by some of the younger interpreters of the genre, including Corey Harris, Chris Duarte, and the late Little Jimmy King. Women also get represented in tracks by Marcia Ball, Candye Kane, Rory Block, and Michelle Wilson.

The fourth disc, named after R & B singer and actor Ruth Brown’s “A Good Day for the Blues”, collects horn-driven soul and soul-blues tunes by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Charles Brown, and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

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