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Hits & Rarities

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Album Review

With his powerful slide guitar sound, Elmore James was as important a modern bluesman as any, and if he recorded a gazillion versions of his signature “Dust My Broom,” they’re all pretty much great — that roaring slide riff is at the center of everything modern rock and blues aspired to be. James' career was short — he died when he was only 45 from heart problems — but remarkably consistent. Like the other modern bluesmen who emerged in the 1950s, James knew what his audience wanted, and he delivered that “Dust My Broom” riff in countless variations, but he also stretched the board a bit when he could, particularly in his last sessions for Bobby Robinson's Harlem-based Fire Records. Robinson was a joyous and efficient producer, and he had tremendous faith in James, recording the guitarist in sessions in Chicago, New York, and New Orleans, letting James stretch out a bit, even providing him with an uptown horn section on some of the tracks. This interesting set collects 15 rather random sides from those last Robinson-produced sessions, but being random here isn't a deal breaker — Elmore James was always Elmore James, just like John Lee Hooker was always John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters was always Muddy Waters. You’ll get “Dust My Broom” and a whole lot more.


Born: January 27, 1918 in Richland, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

No two ways about it, the most influential slide guitarist of the postwar period was Elmore James, hands down. Although his early demise from heart failure kept him from enjoying the fruits of the '60s blues revival as his contemporaries Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf did, James left a wide influential trail behind him. And that influence continues to the present time — in approach, attitude and tone — in just about every guitar player who puts a slide on his finger and wails the blues....
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