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Scrapper Blackwell 1959-1960

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Album Review

Austria's Document Records apparently had this 22-track, 75-minute CD out in 1994, but it only started coming into the U.S. in 1996, and doesn't even show up in some reference sources. Scrapper Blackwell's all-too-brief comeback at the end of the 1950s is well represented by a dozen songs from a live concert at Indianapolis' 1444 Gallery from September 20, 1959, some teaming Blackwell with singer Brooks Berry, paired off with ten tracks from Blackwell's 1960 British-only album on Dave Dobell's 77 label. Blackwell's technique on the guitar had not suffered at all from his nearly 20-year layoff from performing — he finesses sounds from his acoustic instrument that are soft and glittering, utilizing melody notes and carefully varied rhythms, and six of the tracks here are guitar solos, all of which are fascinating on repeated listening. His piano playing is also represented on one track. Blackwell's voice lacks some of the resonance that it had on his 1930s recordings, and, if anything, the sadness in his persona is even more pronounced this late in his career, but he imbues his work with an intense passion that makes it compelling to hear. The worth of these performances makes his death, during an apparent mugging in 1962, all the more tragic, for more than almost any blues figure — including Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy — who almost made it to the folk/blues revival, Blackwell shows here how he could have reached millions with his work, had he lived only a couple of years longer. Oh, and the apology made by the producers for the sound quality of the 1959 concert tape (provided by Duncan Schmidt, who also appears on a track or two) is utterly unnecessary.

Customer Reviews

Amazing Recording after Two Decades out of the Studio

Blackwell recorded these at a club in Indianapolis shortly after his "rediscovery" (a term that's always bothered me). His voice is past its prime, but his playing is still fantastic. This isn't a perfect album, but you get the impression that Blackwell was happy to find another audience, even if it was different from the one he'd played before before. As would be expected, this album consists mostly of songs he recorded (and may have written) with Leroy Carr. For people into the first urban/urbane blues of the 20s and 30s, this is a nice addition to your collection. I heard from David Morgan, the longtime playing partner of Yank Rachell, that Yank was one of the last people to see Blackwell alive. Blackwell and Rachell were going to make a record together and were talking over songs, etc, at a poker game. What a record that might have been ... Blackwell left, Yank said "See ya, Scrappie", and within ten minutes Blackwell was dead.


Born: February 21, 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 death in 1935, but re-emerged at the end of the '50s and began his career anew...
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Scrapper Blackwell 1959-1960, Scrapper Blackwell
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