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Trouble Blues

Scrapper Blackwell

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Album Review

Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell was one of Robert Johnson's primary inspirations. Born in February 1903 in Indianapolis to parents of African and Cherokee ancestry, he developed his blues guitar technique during the 1920s while specializing in the distribution of bootleg liquor. Hard Time Blues, a Scrapper Blackwell sampler released by Acrobat Records in 2003, covers a timeline from 1928 to 1935 with eight solo Blackwell performances followed by ten duets with pianist Leroy Carr. Unlike Bad Liquor Blues, a similarly packaged but more varied Blackwell collection released by Catfish Records in the year 2000, Hard Time Blues is laid out as if to emphasize the powerful presence of Blackwell as a soloist alongside his famous collaborations with Carr. This little 18-track survey may serve as an introduction to the work of both men, with Blackwell's contributions standing out as distinct from the shadow of his famous colleague. Note that the rhythmically hypnotic "Trouble Blues," originally released as flipsides of a Vocalion 78 rpm record, is here presented as tracks one and eight, almost as if to "bookend" Blackwell's solo portion of the proceedings, like the soundtrack to a short film with opening and closing credits. "Kokomo Blues" was covered by Kokomo Arnold and then famously converted into "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson.

Biography

Born: 21 February 1903 in Syracuse, NC

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '50s, '60s

Scrapper Blackwell was best known for his work with pianist Leroy Carr during the early and mid-'30s, but he also recorded many solo sides between 1928 and 1935. A distinctive stylist whose work was closer to jazz than blues, Blackwell was an exceptional player with a technique built around single-note picking that anticipated the electric blues of the '40s and '50s. He abandoned music for more than 20 years after Carr's...
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Trouble Blues, Scrapper Blackwell
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