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Traditional Delta Blues

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Customer Reviews

AMG Review

NOTE: "No less fiery is Johnson's road buddy Johnny Shines's version of (Robert) Johnson's unrecorded "Tell Me Mama" on his 1972 'Traditional Delta Blues" (Biograph)". Greil Marcus "Mystery Train"

This label specialized mostly in archival releases, but taped new sessions with Johnny Shines a couple of years after this blues artist's first solo acoustic recordings had come out. He's back at it again here in a set that should score solidly with anyone who likes the country blues sound of one guy playing an acoustic guitar and singing. The latter area is where Shines shines brighter than a lot of the sad and moaning competition, and it is a shame that he didn't get as much credit as a vocalist during his career as he deserved. In his last years, after a stroke had made it difficult to play guitar well, he was still able to get out as a show frontman with just his singing. It is strong and solid here, full of held vibrato notes peculated in the nasal passages and seamless shifting between singing and spoken passages, often within a line. His guitar playing is more aggressive than on the earlier acoustic recordings, with basslines as hard as steel. While his country blues playing is often compared with his traveling buddy and mentor, Robert Johnson, there are tracks here that sound more like the work of Bukka White or Son House, including the demonic intensity that makes these artists so much fun to listen to. Muffled bass and rhythm patterns reveal a skill at pronunciating notes that is worthy of a killer funk bassist. Part of the fun of a Shines record is his versatility, too. "Glad Rags" is a performance that only he could come up with, full of slow and thoughtful guitar picking that also shows a knowledge of Buddy Guy and whatever else Shines might have heard over the radio in the '60s while working his construction jobs. This is a performance Jimi Hendrix would have been proud of if he had played it. The recorded sound on the guitar is a trifle lacking, be warned. It is the type of sound some engineers might refer to as "boxy," although with a right arm like this guy's, the sides of the box are bound to collapse, and they do.


Born: April 26, 1915 in Frayser, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Best known as a traveling companion of Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines' own contributions to the blues have often been unfairly shortchanged, simply because Johnson's own legend casts such a long shadow. In his early days, Shines was one of the top slide guitarists in Delta blues, with his own distinctive, energized style; one that may have echoed Johnson's spirit and influence, but was never a mere imitation. Shines eventually made his way north to Chicago, and made the transition to electrified urban...
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Traditional Delta Blues, Johnny Shines
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