Blues Lounge: Feast on a bounty of blues with Clapton, Atlantic Records, Chamber Bros. and more!

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Commemorating Atlantic Records’ 60th anniversary, the four-CD, 80-track Atlantic Blues (1947-1970) (Rhino) shows the pioneer R&B label’s bluesy side.

The occasional big hits include Kansas City shouter Big Joe Turner’s “Chains Of Love” and Chuck Willis’ sadly gorgeous “It’s Too Late.”
Obscurities like Odelle Turner’s “Alarm Clock Boogie” are the special treat. Three songs come from LaVern Baker’s 1958 tribute to Bessie Smith. Barrelhouse Sammy was really an aging Blind Willie McTell.

Contributions from Aretha Franklin, Freddie King and Otis Rush round out this intriguing package.

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Similarly eclectic but rootsier, Classic African American Gospel from Smithsonian Folkways’  24 tracks recorded from the 1940s through 1998 include plenty of blues players (Chicago pianist Little Brother Montgomery, harpman Sonny Terry, blind Rev. Gary Davis, 12-string guitar maestro Lead Belly) singing religiously along with totally sacred acts.

Never mind that some true believers think gospel and blues can’t mix. Bunk Johnson’s New Orleans trumpet drives Sister Ernestine Washington’s vocal on a swinging “Where Could I Go.”    

Drummer Panama Francis and guitarist Micky (“Love Is Strange”) Baker back Brother John Sellers on “He’s My Rock.” The CD is extensively annotated.   

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Incidentally, for a contemporary take on the classic multitextured gospel harmonizing style of, say, The Soul Stirrers, check the a cappella Paschall Brothers’ On The Road Right Now (also available on Smithsonian Folkways).  

This heavenly quintet — three of whom are actual Paschall brothers — is smooth.

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Recorded for Vault prior to their 1968 breakthrough “Time Has Come Today,” The Chambers Brothers’ live People Get Ready and Now, studio-recorded Shout!, and part-live Feelin’ The Blues (reissued individually on Collectors’ Choice) probe deeper into blues than their major-label hits.  

Like The Staple Singers, The Chambers transplanted gospel fervor into a cross-genre mix. Among the Jimmy Reed covers, People’s “You’ve Got Me Running” has more charge than Reed’s original.

As for traditional folk, Feelin’s “House Of The Rising Sun” gets a funny intro. Sometimes, the performances outshine the audio quality.

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