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Mr McTell Got the Blues

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Album Review

This two-disc collection assembles some 40 of Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell's early 78s recorded for the Victor, Columbia, Okeh, Vocalion, and Decca labels between 1927 and 1935 into a two-disc set, including the magnificent "Statesboro Blues." These recordings feature the early McTell, when his voice was still a high and expressive tenor. Toward the end of his life, McTell's voice deepened and grew rougher (no doubt from the effects of years of singing on the streets), the songs slowed down and became much more world-weary, and since he recorded his standards several times over, it is interesting to compare early and later versions of songs like "Broke Down Engine Blues." Mr. McTell Got the Blues is a passable introduction to this unique bluesman, but the absence of one of his finest songs, "Dying Crapshooter's Blues," a thoroughly modern composition in a cut-and-paste narrative style, is a minor complaint.


Born: 05 May 1901 in Thomson, GA

Genre: Blues

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

Willie Samuel McTell was one of the blues' greatest guitarists, and also one of the finest singers ever to work in blues. A major figure with a local following in Atlanta from the 1920s onward, he recorded dozens of sides throughout the '30s under a multitude of names -- all the better to juggle "exclusive" relationships with many different record labels at once -- including Blind Willie, Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, and Georgia Bill, as a backup musician to Ruth Mary Willis. And those may not...
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