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The Honeydripper's Ball

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Album Review

Late in life, pianist and blues shouter Roosevelt Sykes rode the crest of a remarkable comeback that introduced him to large numbers of club-crawling, festival-attending, and record-buying blues lovers, many of them young enough to be his grandchildren. The Honeydripper's Ball is a veritable time capsule from 1973 in the form of a reissue of the ironically titled The Meek Roosevelt Sykes [Jewel LP 5011] appended with a little over six minutes' worth from his set at the outdoor 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival. The studio session is a delight, with an uncredited drummer contributing just the right amount of punchy support to an itinerary that includes several excellent instrumentals. "Driving Wheel" and "Night Time Is the Right Time" (which he first recorded in 1937) are beautiful examples of how Sykes interacted with crowds of enthusiastic admirers as he puffed his cigar, massaged the ivories, and sang the blues with all his heart.


Born: 31 January 1906 in Elmar, AR

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Next time someone voices the goofball opinion that blues is simply too depressing to embrace, sit 'em down and expose 'em to a heady dose of Roosevelt Sykes. If he doesn't change their minds, nothing will. There was absolutely nothing downbeat about this roly-poly, effervescent pianist (nicknamed "Honeydripper" for his youthful prowess around the girls), whose lengthy career spanned the pre-war and postwar eras with no interruption whatsoever. Sykes' romping boogies and hilariously risqué lyrics...
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