Press Archive - Various Artists Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge (2-CD) - all about jazz
Various Artists: Blues Kings of Baton Rouge Any musical genre gets its own regional twist, and this is especially the case with the blues. Just think of Chicago blues, Memphis blues and Detroit blues. However, a regional variant that has not been examined sufficiently is the blues of Baton Rouge. This fault is corrected by Blues Kings of Baton Rouge, a 2CD-set curated by blues expert Martin Hawkins, released on Bear Family.
The set follows two other major Baton Rouge projects by Hawkins, the definitive box set of recordings by Slim Harpo: Buzzin' the Blues: The Complete Slim Harpo (Bear Family, 2015,) and his book on Harpo and the blues environment in Baton Rouge: Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge (Louisiana State University Press, 2017).
Blues Kings of Baton Rouge provides an enjoyable introduction to the blues music of Baton Rouge, focusing on the period between 1954 and 1974. As Hawkins explains in the album's 52-page booklet, the reason for this is quite simple; before 1954, little recorded evidence of the blues scene in Baton Rouge existed, and after 1974, the blues started to disappear, making room for other genres like soul and R&B.
In the years covered by the set, a vibrant, local scene is captured with Slim Harpo as the leading light. Among the 53 tracks, nine are by Harpo, including his big hit "I'm a King Bee." The sound is gritty and down to earth, relying on few instruments like piano, harmonica, guitar and drums. J.D. Miller, who recorded much of the music heard on the set, knew how to recognize an authentic sound and a good blues song and he paved the way for artists like Harpo and Lightnin' Slim. Along the way, he also made up monikers for many of his artists, including the irresistible Lazy Lester and Lonesome Sundown.
Press Archive - Various Artists Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge (2-CD) - goldmine mag
From 1954 to 1971, the city of Baton Rouge gave the world Slim Harpo, Lightning Slim, Lazy Lester, Schoolboy Cleve, Lonesome Sundown, Tabby Thomas, Whispering Smith and Guitar Kelley. These artists and more now have the Bear Family Records treatment of exquisite remastering and copious illumination with a 52-page booklet of rare photos and fascinating information within the phenomenal bonanza that is Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge, 58 tracks on two discs of the real thing. In the running for the best blues compilation of the year, this limited edition (only 1,000 copies were pressed) slides by with a paucity of clinkers. Back in the day, Excello Records in Tennessee had a deal in place with JD Miller, a white entrepreneur/engineer from Louisiana who knew a good thing when he heard it…and we are all the beneficiaries.
Lucky Guy! (Alligator Records), by the Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling, is the follow-up to last year’s The High Cost Of Low Living and it expands upon that album’s ferocious program of guitar virtuosity (Moss) and late-night bar-room blues-harp (Gruenling). With tasty production by Kid Andersen (lead guitarist of Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, another blistering blues band), 13 of 14 are original (the sole cover is Johnny O’Neal’s 1976 “Ugly Woman”). The band is funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter (to quote Tina Turner) and with a great wash of Hammond B-3 and Wurlitzer, electric and acoustic bass plus stop-on-a-dime drumming, you’d be hard-pressed to pass this action up...
Presse Archiv - Various Artists Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge (2-CD) - Now Dig This
That Reed groove was really taken to heart down in Baton Rouge, and it made the world a better place. Most of the blues here are good, but the main interest is in that swamp feel, uptempo or slower. The booklet by Martin Hawkins is excellent, and purchase is recommended to those who enjoy black American authentic music, and can take some of the folkier sounds and acoustic blues.
Presse Archiv - Various Artists Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge (2-CD) - Rhythm & Blues
Blues and r&b sides by artists from Baton Rouge, Louisiana are usually associated with the Excello label: Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester. Tabby Thomas, Lonesome Sundown plus other fine blues artists (but not as well known) such as Arthur 'Guitar' Kelley, Silas Hogan, Whispering Smith and Jimmy Anderson. Well, they are all here but Martin Hawkins (who produced the set. wrote the notes and track by track analysis) has cast his net wider to include the likes of of Robert Pete Williams, Smoky Babe, Butch Cage, Willie B. Thomas and Clarence Edwards. Covering the years 1954 to 1971, the tracks are taken from sides released on 78s, 45s and albums. As Hawkins states: "We really don't know what the blues sound of Baton Rouge was before 1954", so we kick of with Otis Hicks, (aka Lightnin' Slim) who cut 'Bad Luck' and 'Bugger Bugger Boy', in 1954 for Feature which is swiftly followed by Cleveland White's (Schoolboy Cleve) 'Strange Letter Blues' also cut for Feature but a year later.