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Blind Joe Taggart Vol. 1 (1926-1928)

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Album Review

When divine inspiration was upon him, guitar-strumming evangelist Blind Joe Taggart was capable of sounding something like Blind Willie Johnson. The primary difference between the two was Taggart's occasional crossover into blues territory, a secular region carefully avoided by the devoutly religious Blind Willie. Volume one in Document's complete Taggart edition opens with his first 11 recordings, which were cut for Vocalion in New York City during November and December of 1926. Some of these are duets with either a woman identified as Emma Talbert or with his son, James Taggart. Three alternate takes enable those who are so inclined to engage in contemplative, comparative listening. Tracks 12-16 were all waxed in Chicago on Thursday, June 30, 1927 but were released on three different labels under three different names. Columbia's "C & O Blues" is credited to Blind Joe Amos in an apparent move to differentiate Taggart from his evangelical self as heard on Vocalion's "The Storm Is Passing Over," and "God's Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares."

For Taggart to have also recorded that day for Paramount with a friend or two as Blind Percy & His Blind Band would not have been all that unusual, and the primary performer does sound like Taggart with a kazoo wedged between his teeth. The other instrument that crops up on this session for the first time in this artist's discography (if indeed Percy was Taggart) is a violin, played by an unidentified fiddler who may be the same individual as is heard on "Been Listening All the Day" and "Goin' to Rest Where Jesus Is," which were recorded for Paramount in January 1928. Tracks 19-24 were cut in October and December 1928 with young Josh White playing guitar and providing backup vocals. Again Taggart's identity changed depending upon which label was presenting his music, for even though these were primarily Paramount releases, this protean character was billed on Broadway records as Blind Joe Dunnell and on Herwin as either Blind Tim Russell or Blind Jeremiah Taylor. His remaining works (and a couple of titles perhaps apocryphally attributed to him) are combined with performances by two other guitar evangelists on Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2, Document's sequel to this fine collection of historic rarities.

Biography

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s

If one ever ran into Blind Joe Taggart in a dark alley, the only possible protection would be to have Blind John Henry Arnold with you. According to the famous folk singer and blues artist Josh White, there was only one man on earth who was meaner than Taggart, and that was Arnold. White obviously knew what he was talking about, having been abused and kicked around by both men, as well as the even more famous Blind Lemon Jefferson. Back in the old days when blind blues virtuoso roamed the streets...
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Blind Joe Taggart Vol. 1 (1926-1928), Blind Joe Taggart
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