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Album Review

At first listen, J.B. Lenoir might not impress. He was a rudimentary guitar player, generally using slow to midtempo Jimmy Reed-like blues progressions, and his voice was high-pitched and could waver at times, sometimes resembling a screech more than anything else. But first impressions can be deceiving. Lenoir was passionate and intelligent, with a strong personal and political agenda, and all these traits combine to make his body of work unlike any other player in the blues genre. This collection brings together his earliest recordings for JOB and his entire output for Parrot (the label to which he jumped in 1954), and includes his only national hit, the sublime "Mama Talk to Your Daughter," which hit the R&B charts in 1955, essentially functioning as Parrot's swan song. Everything here is wonderful, messy Chicago blues, and slickness is nowhere to be seen, having been replaced by wry, raw emotion. Starting in 1953 J.T. Brown began playing tenor sax on Lenoir's sides, and the addition helped define two of Lenoir's greatest songs, the harrowing "I'm in Korea" and the call-it-like-you-see-it "Eisenhower Blues," which caused a political stir when it was released and was subsequently withdrawn and replaced by "Tax Paying Blues," the exact same song with all references to the President removed. It still works, either way, and shows the level of Lenoir's commitment to his music. He was never satisfied with standard blues clichés, and as he matured as a writer, his songs displayed a kind of fierce awareness of the world around him that sets him apart from almost any other blues player of his day. There are several editions of Lenoir's JOB material on the market, but this one, because it adds in his great, late Parrot sides, is a better way to get them.


Born: 05 March 1929 in Monticello, MS

Genre: Blues

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

Newcomers to his considerable legacy could be forgiven for questioning J.B. Lenoir's gender upon first hearing his rocking waxings. Lenoir's exceptionally high-pitched vocal range is a fooler, but it only adds to the singular appeal of his music. His politically charged "Eisenhower Blues" allegedly caused all sorts of nasty repercussions upon its 1954 emergence on Al Benson's Parrot logo (it was quickly pulled off the shelves and replaced with Lenoir's less controversially titled "Tax Paying Blues")....
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Top Albums and Songs by J.B. Lenoir

1951-1954, J.B. Lenoir
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