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Smithsonian Folkways (SFWCD40183)

Eureka Brass Band, Mardi Gras Indians, Rev Lewis Jackson, Doc Paulin, Billie & DeDe Pierce, Snooks Eaglin, Jack Dupree, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Kid Clayton, Punch Miller, The Six And Seven Eighths Stringband, Emile Barnes etc.

I love these Folkways special anthologies. Where else are going to find such a diverse collection of all of the influential musical styles of the Crescent City?

Opening with the gospel stomp of the Eureka Brass Band, this CD covers every aspect of New Orleans' heritage from street singers and musicians like Freddie L Small with his spirited version of Tiger Rag, funeral dirges and marches from Doc Paulin's band, big brawling dance hall jazz from Billie and DeDe Pierce and superlative piano blues performances from Jack Dupree and Roosevelt Sykes.

Then there's a lesson in New Orleans percussion from Baby Dodds with his Spooky Drums #1, the bar-room blast of Emile Barnes and Billie Pierce on their hopped-up arrangement of Charley Patton's Shake It And Break It, while Reverend Lewis Jackson and Charlotte Rucell moan meaningfully through their version of Dark Was The Night.

Of course, New Orleans has had more than it's fair share of guitar players too and they're well represented here with Bernie Shields and Ed Souchon of the Six And Seven Eighths String Band roaring into a joyous, irreverent bit of showing-off on the old jazz classic Clarinet Marmalade while Lonnie Johnson rips off some mighty adventurous runs on his 1967 recording of Careless Love. As you'd expect, Snooks Eaglin makes that thing swing on his re-assembling of the street march High Society where (as Kenneth Goldstein notes) he "attempts to simulate the various instrumental solo breaks, disregarding the very limits of the guitar itself". Eaglin shows up again a few tracks later with his funky Saint James Infirmary which sizzles thanks to his laconic vocal delivery and the fluidity of his lusty guitar playing. Everyone in the world should hear this track.

There are 26 fascinating tracks here plus a thirty page booklet filled to the brim with enlightening and entertaining notes that include information on men like Sam Charters, Frederic Ramsey , Harold Courlander, David Wyckoff and Alden Ashforth who were responsible for recording this magnificent music.


Review Date: August 2010

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