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Walking Blues

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Album Review

Unless you are a serious blues historian or blues aficionado, this 22-track collection of tracks by Big Joe Williams is all you are ever going to need. All of these tunes were recorded in New York on October 7, 1961, and issued as two separate LPs on Prestige's Bluesville imprint. The first ten tracks here were released as Studio Blues (catalog number 1083) and the rest as Blues for 9 Strings (catalog number 1056). Right, they are presented here in reverse release order, but they were all recorded during the same session. Williams is accompanied throughout by Willie Dixon on bass and Larry Johnson on harmonica. Williams plays his trademark nine-string guitar with its wild tuning on all but three tunes here. All of his well-known numbers are presented, though they are obviously later dates, but they lack no passion or proficiency given that this was the real beginning of the blues revival on this side of the Atlantic. The folk revival had not yet begun to wane, and many young men were heading for the East Coast in station wagons to find the bluesmen they had heard on either Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music or similar recordings. Williams and his friends show incredible stamina in running through these songs, and producer Kenneth S. Goldstein does a great job of presenting them raw and rugged. This is a party record if there ever was one.


Born: 16 October 1903 in Crawford, MS

Genre: Blues

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

Big Joe Williams may have been the most cantankerous human being who ever walked the earth with guitar in hand. At the same time, he was an incredible blues musician: a gifted songwriter, a powerhouse vocalist, and an exceptionally idiosyncratic guitarist. Despite his deserved reputation as a fighter (documented in Michael Bloomfield's bizarre booklet Me and Big Joe), artists who knew him well treated him as a respected elder statesman. Even so,...
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