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Gospel, Blues and Street Songs

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Album Review

This first edition title — later renamed Gospel, Blues & Street Songs — is one of the cornerstones of Riverside Records' "Original Blues Classics" series. Regardless of the moniker, these sides loom large in the available works of seminal blues icons Pink Anderson and Rev. Gary Davis. Both performers hail from the largely underappreciated Piedmont blues scene — which first began to flourish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — near the North/South Carolina state border. Anderson's seven tracks were recorded in Charlottesville, VA, on May 29, 1950 — while he was literally on the road. His highly sophisticated and self-accompanied style of simultaneously picking and sliding — accomplished using a half-opened jackknife — could pass for an electronic effect. The folk ballad "John Henry" contains the most evident example of this unique fretwork. His lyrically smug prankster edict is revealed on tracks such as "I Got Mine" and "He's in the Jailhouse Now." The Rev. Gary Davis side — which appropriately contains all spirituals — was recorded in N.Y.C. on January 28, 1956. However, Davis' delivery is steeped in the minstrel and street blues of his native Carolinas. Here is where the worlds of Davis and Anderson sonically intersect. As a performer, his clean and intricate acoustic picking and guttural vocalization stand as his trademark. Included here are several of the Reverend's most revered works, including "Samson and Delilah" — which became a performance staple for the Grateful Dead, as well as "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning." This was covered to great effect by Hot Tuna, whose lead guitarist, Jorma Kaukonen, took lessons from the Reverend in the early '60s.


Born: February 12, 1900 in Laurens, SC

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

A good-natured finger-picking guitarist, Anderson played for about 30 years as part of a medicine show. He did make a couple of sides for Columbia in the late '20s with Simmie Dooley, but otherwise didn't record until a 1950 session, the results of which were issued on a Riverside LP that also included tracks by Gary Davis. Anderson went on to make some albums on his own after the blues revival commenced in the early '60s, establishing him as a minor but worthy exponent of the Pidemont school, versed...
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Gospel, Blues and Street Songs, Pink Anderson
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