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An Introduction to Big Bill Broonzy

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Album Review

These recordings from the 1950s are one excellent way to get to know bluesman Big Bill Broonzy. The intimacy of his later work can be wonderfully magnetic for those who are able to connect with him one-on-one, as it were. More impatient individuals may wish to opt for his earlier "good time" material from the ‘30s, or the sessions he shared with horn players in the mid-‘40s. During his twilight years, Broonzy generally sang with an open heart, and a truly receptive listener may be transformed by the emanations of his soul. Big Bill was a hard-working man who plowed the soil of his own farm in Arkansas during the early stages of his career. For all of his direct involvement with the early urban blues scene in Chicago, on gradually paced traditional blues and folk numbers he would often cry out in the manner of an old-time field holler. With only 16 tracks, this is a light sampling from an individual whose recorded output far exceeded that of most of his contemporaries. Unfortunate, too, that the producers chose to include "I Got Up One Mornin' Blues" and Broonzy's version of Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues" in the same set, as the two songs are very similar. As is the case with most Fuel 2000 editions, this may serve as an adequate "introduction," but other Broonzy collections are sure to provide a wider range of examples and a larger number of tracks to fill out the duration of the compact disc.


Born: June 26, 1893 in Scott, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Big Bill Broonzy was born William Lee Conley Broonzy in the tiny town of Scott, Mississippi, just across the river from Arkansas. During his childhood, Broonzy's family -- itinerant sharecroppers and the descendants of ex-slaves -- moved to Pine Bluff to work the fields there. Broonzy learned to play a cigar box fiddle from his uncle, and as a teenager, he played violin in local churches, at community dances, and in a country string band. During World War I, Broonzy enlisted in the U.S. Army, and...
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