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Just Clownin'
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Performer Notes
  • Liner Note Author: Bill Dahl.
  • As a songwriter, performer, occasional vocalist, session man, bandleader, and superb Crescent City piano player, Huey "Piano" Smith was essential to the success of Johnny Vincent's New Orleans label Ace Records in the late '50s and early '60s. Not only did Smith chart in 1957 with his classic "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," he also wrote the 1959 smash "Sea Cruise" for Frankie Ford and had his hand in nearly everything that Vincent recorded, and most -- if not all -- of it holds up well some 60 years later. This wonderful set has both "Pneumonia" and "Sea Cruise" as well as over a dozen other gems from Ace and its subsidiary, Vin Records. Vincent, much like Jamaica's reggae producers, would often use a stellar backing track to build new songs, trying out different singers and approaches over the original track, and the Ace vaults feature a ton of unreleased material of this sort that is of an unusually high quality, and tracks here like "Alimony," a delightful, fun song about a monkey dealing with the divorce courts that was Ford's follow-up to "Sea Cruise," feature different vocalists (Peg Leg Martin voices this version of "Alimony") that bring out different shadings and nuances in the songs -- all with Smith's piano as a rhythmic anchor. There's so much to love in this set, including Curley Moore, Gerri Hall, and Benny Spellman's "I Tried," Smith's intimate and demo-sounding "Mississippi," and a Smith duet with Gerri Hall, "I Think You're Jivin' Me," and if there are more expansive surveys of Smith's contributions to Ace Records out there, the rarity of some of the tracks presented in this set makes it more than distinctive. ~ Steve Leggett
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