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Classic Piano Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
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Album: Classic Piano Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
# Song Title   Time
1)    Dedication To Pete Johnson - Memphis Sun
2)    Early In the Morning - Booker T. Laury
3)    How Long Blues - Speckled Red
4)    Yellow Dog Blues - Katherine Handy Lewis/James P. Johnson
5)    Key To the Highway - Memphis Slim/Jazz Gillum
6)    Medium Blues - Meade "Lux" Lewis
7)    Black Wolf Blues - Champion Jack Dupree
8)    Dices Blues - Big Chief Ellis
9)    Big Fat Woman - Lead Belly
10)    Harlem Parlor Blues - Sammy Price
11)    Little Drops of Water - Edith North Johnson/Henry Brown
12)    Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - Little Brother Montgomery
13)    Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - Pinetop Smith/Speckled Red
14)    Wish Me Well - Memphis Slim/Willie Dixon
15)    All My Money's Gone - Henry Towsend
16)    You're My Man - Victoria Spivey
17)    On My Way To See Moe Asch - Champion Jack Dupree
18)    Sweet Old Chicago - Roosevelt Sykes
19)    No Special Rider Blues - Little Brother Montgomery
20)    Hesitation Blues - James P. Johnson
 

Album: Classic Piano Blues From Smithsonian Folkways
# Song Title   Time
1)    Dedication To Pete Johnson - Memphis Sun
2)    Early In the Morning - Booker T. Laury
3)    How Long Blues - Speckled Red
4)    Yellow Dog Blues - Katherine Handy Lewis/James P. Johnson
5)    Key To the Highway - Memphis Slim/Jazz Gillum
6)    Medium Blues - Meade "Lux" Lewis
7)    Black Wolf Blues - Champion Jack Dupree
8)    Dices Blues - Big Chief Ellis
9)    Big Fat Woman - Lead Belly
10)    Harlem Parlor Blues - Sammy Price
11)    Little Drops of Water - Edith North Johnson/Henry Brown
12)    Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - Little Brother Montgomery
13)    Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - Pinetop Smith/Speckled Red
14)    Wish Me Well - Memphis Slim/Willie Dixon
15)    All My Money's Gone - Henry Towsend
16)    You're My Man - Victoria Spivey
17)    On My Way To See Moe Asch - Champion Jack Dupree
18)    Sweet Old Chicago - Roosevelt Sykes
19)    No Special Rider Blues - Little Brother Montgomery
20)    Hesitation Blues - James P. Johnson
 
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  • Folkways might be most known for recording traditional folk and ethnic music, but the label did cut a good deal of blues and jazz while it was in operation. Classic Piano Blues has 20 blues songs in which the piano is the most prominent instrument in the arrangement, and while recording dates are not given for all of the tracks, it seems reasonable to assume they roughly span the early '40s to the mid-'70s. A bunch of major names in the blues field are here, including Memphis Slim, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Champion Jack Dupree, Henry Townsend, Victoria Spivey, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, James P. Johnson, and Leadbelly (not a misprint; on his selection "Big Fat Woman," he sings and plays piano, though he's primarily known as a guitarist). Because Folkways was one of the least overtly commercial labels of the mid-20th century, some listeners might find some of this too dryly recorded, as if it's done with at least some concern for folkloric preservation rather than popular appeal. Certainly a high percentage of this features only piano and vocal (and sometimes only piano), though some other accompanists do get in on the act on some selections. But while it might not be the most dance-oriented of collections (though there are some pretty fast-paced cuts), there's a decent variety of material by good blues piano players, ranging from instrumentals to boogies, ballads, laments, jazz blues, and near R&B. Spivey's "You're My Man" and Johnson's "Hesitation Blues" are highlights of a respectable collection, though those with less specialized blues tastes might grow weary of the emphasis on numbers with basic melodic progressions and arrangements. ~ Richie Unterberger
Professional Reviews
Dirty Linen (p.47) - "Stride pianist James Johnson explores the roots with an orchestra-accompanied rendition of the traditional tune 'Hesitation Blues'..."

Living Blues (p.78) - "Such a roster suggests a wide divergence of styles, from the primitive blues piano of Dupree and Speckled Red to the more polished performances of Lewis, Price, and stride pioneer Johnson."
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