Various Artists
Afro-American Blues and Game Songs
Rounder (

Overseen by pioneer recordist Alan Lomax, the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture released its first six field recordings in 1942. In cooperation with the Library's American Folklife Center, Rounder is reissuing those historic albums from new master tapes. Fourth in the original series, Afro-American Blues and Game Songs includes some rare gems. Muddy Waters' first sides channel the eerily palpable influence of Robert Johnson's recordings (they grew up within miles of each other, but never met). The early Sonny Terry offers a classic lesson in blues harmonica (e.g., "Lost John," "Fox Chase"), and Vera Hall renders her haunting a cappella blues (e.g., "Another Man Done Gone"). Rounding out the album is an engaging selection of country blues, rags, hollers and children's songs by little known but equally talented performers. Of the 25 titles, eight are from state penitentiaries in Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, reflecting Lomax's premise that the earliest African-American song forms had been perpetuated under the quasi-slavery conditions of the prison work farms. What Lomax actually documented was thoroughly modern music, as in Charlie Butler's plaintive vocal, "Diamond Joe," Smith Casey's rolling and tumbling guitar on "East Texas Rag," and his rocking "Shorty George." - Michael Stone

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