By Mike Greenblatt
If you set out to buy physical recordings of each song that is featured on the CD accompanying the upcoming 2014 Blues Images calendar, you could expect to part with a significant chunk of change.
Throw in photos of the artists and original advertising art that the labels used to sell their records back in the day, along with blues history and trivia, and it’s easy to see why vintage blues buffs look forward to the arrival of fall. Blues Images’ first offering debuted for the 2004 calendar, with a photo of Charley Patton on the cover and a 15-track CD tucked inside its thick, glossy pages. You can order a copy of this and previous years' calendar sets at www.bluesimages.com.
This 11th installment improves upon the original with a 24-track CD and hard-to-find photographs of icons including Henry Thomas, Furry Lewis and Bessie Smith, aka “The Empress Of The Blues,” wearing a startling headdress in a photo she personally signed for her gown designer.
The track list is: “Bull Doze Blues,” Henry Thomas, 1928; “Good Looking Girl Blues,” Furry Lewis, 1927; “Mean Black Cat Blues,” Charley Patton, 1929; “Cracking Them Things,” Mississippi Sheiks, 1930; “Miss Emma Liza,” Blind Blake, 1932; “Rattle Snake Groan,” Luella Miller, 1927; “Your Enemies Cannot Harm You (But Watch Your Close Friend),” Reverend E.W. Clayborn, 1926; “Long Lonesome Blues,” Blind Lemon Jefferson, 1926; “She’s A Long Tall Disconnected Mama,” Washboard Walter, 1930; “Blue Spirit Blues,” Bessie Smith, 1929; “Let’s Get Along,” Papa Charlie Jackson, 1926; “Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane,” Mother McCollum, 1930; “He’s The Joy Of My Salvation,” Blind Gussie Nesbitt, 1935; “God Is Worried At Your Wicked Ways,” Blind Gussie Nesbitt, 1935; “Bedside Blues,” Jim Thompkins, 1930; “Ghost Woman Blues,” George Carter, 1929; “Weeping Willow Blues,” George Carter, 1929; “Fourteenth Street Blues,” Blind Percy, 1927; “Coal River Blues,” Blind Percy, 1927; “Overall Cheater Blues,” Washboard Walter, 1930; “When You Dream Of Muddy Water,” Tenderfoot Edwards, 1929; “Up On The Hill Blues,” Tenderfoot Edwards, 1929; “Dissatisfied Blues,” Blind Blake, 1932; and “Magnolia Blues,” Charley Patton, 1929.
Of particular interest is “Miss Emma Liza” (Track 5), a record by Blind Blake in which he imitates Louie Armstrong. The record was thought lost, rescued from the dustbin of time when a lone copy was discovered last summer at a North Carolina flea market. Badly battered, it has been painstakingly updated by Richard Nevins to sound as close as possible to when it was first recorded 81 years ago!
Until now, the depression-era classic “Bedside Blues” by Jim Thompkins (Track 15) had been reissued, but it had sounded quite battle-scarred. The version presented here comes directly from the stock of a Dallas store; it had never even been played before.
And talk about rare! The two Tenderfoot Edwards songs come from the only known existing 78 RPM disc, and both sides have been included here, likewise for the two Charlie Patton tracks, discovered recently in Great Britain.
One of the more amusing advertisements is from Paramount Records in 1926 for Papa Charlie Jackson’s “Let’s Get Along.” It shows a disgruntled, well-dressed gentleman dragging his still-flirting woman away from another man.
Even though the page hasn’t flipped yet to 2014, John Tefteller of Blues Images and Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records is already looking forward to the 2015 edition. “We’re still searching for a 1920s original photo of Mississippi John Hurt that we know exists, as well as two missing Willie Brown records that we know are out there somewhere.” GM