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Papa Charlie Jackson Vol. 1 (1924 - 1926)

Papa Charlie Jackson with Ida Cox

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Album Review

The first 27 of Papa Charlie Jackson's recorded works is, on about ten counts, one of the most important blues documents you can find, dating all the way back to August of 1924, before there was even electrical recording or a true definition to "blues." Indeed, the popular highlight is a dance number called "Shake That Thing," which fairly overwhelmed a lot of Jackson's truer blues records with its beat. The opening number, "Papa's Lawdy Lawdy Blues," shows a kind of formative blues, with it and its B-side "Airy Man (aka "Hairy Man") Blues" closer in spirit to comic novelty numbers. The hybrid banjo-guitar that Jackson played was an absolute necessity on these and his other early records, for it was more audible than any guitar of the era would have been, and serves to keep a beat as well as provide full accompaniment. "Salt Lake City Blues" is closer to our modern definition of blues, a romantic lament that's as honest and cheerful as it is sexist. Jackson's first version of "Salty Dog Blues" is here, along with what is probably the earliest reference to Chicago's outdoor blues Mecca in "Maxwell Street Blues," dating from September of 1925. Other topical references to the future blues capital city can be heard in "Jackson's Blues," dealing with a local politician, and also worth checking out in that regard is "Mama Don't Allow It," telling of a country girl's descent into prostitution after coming to the big city. Also here is one of the earliest known source records for Willie Dixon's composition "Spoonful," tentitled "All I Want Is a Spoonful" (though anyone only familiar with the versions by Cream won't really recognize it), and a primordial incarnation of "I'm Alabama Bound" (later immortalized by Leadbelly). The audio quality is amazingly good throughout this disc (the only big exceptions, unfortunately, being the two duets with Ida Cox and the two takes of "Texas Blues," which are really in rough shape), and the sessionography and annotation are reasonably thorough, given how little we actually know about Jackson.

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