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Cotton Pickin' Blues

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Album Review

The pairing of Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway on a single disc makes a lot of sense, given that both recorded solely for Bluebird Records (McClennan cut 40 sides for the label between 1939 and 1942, while Petway recorded 16 sides in two sessions in 1941 and 1942) and since both shared a somewhat similar guitar and vocal style, even recording what were essentially variations of the same songs. Petway is probably the better guitar player, although that isn't saying much, since McClennan was nothing if not rough and crude on the instrument. Both sang with abandon, and what they lacked in musical skill they more than made up for in pure impassioned energy. The sequencing on Cotton Pickin' Blues skips back and forth between the two bluesmen, which is a good idea, since it gives the album the illusion of having more variety than it actually has. Document has issued McClennan's complete work in two volumes, while the surviving 14 sides of Petway's complete work can be found on Catfish Blues: Mississippi Blues, Vol. 3, also from Document.

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