By Bruce Sylvester
OK, all you vintage blues devotees, here’s cool news. Blues Images has released its 2020 wall calendar/CD package, volume 17 in its “Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s” series.
The 12x24” calendar’s format is, as ever, a 12x12” vintage ad for a 78-RPM platter or a photo of the artist with the 12x12” calendar below noting important blues happenings (if any) on particular days. People born in March, for example, may discover that they share a birthday with Furry Lewis, Lightnin’ Hopkins, or Son House (or that they entered this world on the anniversary of T-Bone Walker’s or Tampa Red’s departing it). Advertising art for Paramount Records obviously influenced old-blues aficionado R. Crumb’s style.
The first 12 songs on the accompanying CD match the 12 months’ art on the calendar. For January, B.B. King’s 1949 “Got the Blues” (his second release) opens the set, followed by young Victoria Spivey’s “Blood Thirsty Blues.” February’s art – a promotional photo of Texas-born Spivey – labels her “one of the prettiest girls in Harlem.”
November brings Bessie Jackson’s 1935 “Shave ‘Em Dry” with Walter Roland on piano. If you know the song and are concerned about playing it in front of impressionable children or your mother, fear not. This is the commercially released version, not the infamous long-unissued reworded version. (In case you’re curious, both appear on Legacy’s “Shave ‘Em Dry: The Best of Lucille Bogan,” Bessie Jackson simply being a name Bogan used on some recordings.) The calendar and CD list her as Bessie Jackson, while the CD’s booklet and tray card mistakenly identify her as Bessie Smith.
Bonus tracks on earlier years’ CDs often included flip sides of the calendar’s songs. This year’s 10 worthy bonus cuts come from totally different origins including three 1950s numbers by Juke Boy Barner done in Oakland, CA.
Though songs often come from collectors’ rare but aged 78s, the audio quality is generally acceptable or better. The exception is Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1926 “Bad Luck Blues” on Paramount – a label that had far less concern for sound quality than some rival companies. Clean audio on Blind Lemon reissues isn’t always possible.
As for wonderful surprises, I’d choose Lonnie Johnson’s drolly vengeful 1930 “She’s Making Whoopee in Hell Tonight“ for Halloween month and, turning religious for December, Mississippi Sarah and Daddy Stovepipe’s “Read You’re A B C’s,” a 1931 track that rocked the gospel even before Sister Rosetta Tharpe came along.
You can check out the calendar/CD package at www.bluesimages.com