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Dreaming the Blues

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Album Review

Some folks say that piano man Charlie Spand was born in Elljay, GA, a small town in the Appalachian foothills north of Atlanta. That statement, like most of the information associated with this artist, is based upon research and speculation. What's known for sure is that Charlie Spand was one of several heavy-hitting blues, boogie-woogie and barrelhouse pianists who performed on Brady and Hastings Streets in Detroit, MI during the '20s. It is also known that in 1929 Spand moved to Chicago where he began hanging out and gigging with guitarist Blind Blake. Most verifiable of all is the fact that between June 1929 and September 1931 Spand recorded 24 sides for the Paramount label in Richmond IN, Chicago IL and Grafton, WI. In 1992 the Document reissue label released Spand's Complete Paramounts in chronological order. In 2002, the folks at Yazoo brought out Dreaming the Blues, a chronologically shuffled survey of these same recordings with noticeably improved sound quality. Yazoo did not include "Tired Woman Blues," an alternate take of "Got to Have My Sweetbread" or an incomplete breakdown of "Levee Man Blues." Yazoo did include Spand's spoken introduction from a song on a Paramount's blues sampler, "Hometown Skiffle," originally released in 1929 and reissued in 1997 by Black Swan Records, a division of the GHB Jazz Foundation, Inc., in New Orleans, LA. The Paramount recordings of Charlie Spand are refreshingly honest and real. Seven of these tracks (from the Richmond sessions that took place during the summer of 1929) have guitar accompaniments; most of these are attributed to Blind Blake, who rattles off a bit of friendly conversation on "Hastings Street." The only other Charlie Spand recordings known to exist are eight sides cut for the Okeh label in June of 1940. The producers at Document have vowed to reissue these rare sides "on CD at a later date."


Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

Next to nothing is known about barrelhouse pianist Charlie Spand -- the 33 scattered tracks which comprise his recorded legacy are virtually the only concrete proof that he even existed. Although his exact origins are unclear, his 1940 recording "Alabama Blues" contains references to his birth there; academics also offer his earlier performances of "Mississippi Blues" and "Levee Camp Man" as strong evidence of a connection to the Delta. However, Spand first made a name for himself as a product of...
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Dreaming the Blues, Charlie Spand
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