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Rounder Heritage: A Portrait of Champion Jack Dupree

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Album Review

A Portrait of Champion Jack Dupree is a compilation drawn from three albums Dupree recorded for Rounder Records near the end of his life, when he was in his late seventies and early eighties. The first of them, Back Home in New Orleans, was released in 1990, the year he turned 80, the last, One Last Time, came out in 1993, the year after his death. Even at his advanced age, Dupree remained a formidable barrelhouse pianist and a strong vocal presence. Backed on these sessions by sympathetic New Orleans musicians, he seems to have been simply turned loose to do as he liked. There is a noticeable informality to the recordings, with the artist occasionally stumbling over his words, stopping and starting at will. Some tracks find him playing recognizable songs, while others, such as "Skit Skat" and "Dupree Special," are jams. The album is enjoyable despite this as an expression of Dupree's personality. On several songs, notably "Give Me the Flowers While I'm Livin'" and "You Can Make It" (both of which also appeared on the posthumous One Last Time), Dupree makes specific references to death (the former song even pictures him in his coffin). The subject of death is not unknown in the blues, of course, but Dupree seems conscious of his advanced age here and deals with his coming death evenly and even humorously. His last sessions may not be his best work, but they show him to be as distinctive as ever.


Born: 23 July 1909 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

A formidable contender in the ring before he shifted his focus to pounding the piano instead, Champion Jack Dupree often injected his lyrics with a rowdy sense of down-home humor. But there was nothing lighthearted about his rock-solid way with a boogie; when he shouted "Shake Baby Shake," the entire room had no choice but to acquiesce. Dupree was notoriously vague about his beginnings, claiming in some interviews that his parents died in a fire set by the Ku Klux Klan, at other times saying that...
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Rounder Heritage: A Portrait of Champion Jack Dupree, Champion Jack Dupree
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