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GVC (GVC2039)

Maxine Brown, Buster Brown, Lee Dorsey, Charles Walker, Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez, Solomon Burke, Bobby Marchan, Noble ‘Thin Man’ Watts, Elmore James and many more…

A fabulous compilation of the early recordings in the career of the talented, little-known but in-demand guitarist, Jimmy Spruill. A native of North Carolina who moved to New York in the mid-1950s, Spruill had a distinctive guitar technique that would soon be employed on a whole host of rock and roll, R&B, blues and soul recordings, many of which would go on to become big-selling and influential hits.

Due to less than comprehensive cataloguing, the totality of Spruill’s involvements and contributions can only be guessed at but across the two CDs included here there are over 60 splendid examples from between 1955 and 1962 to be going on with.

You will no doubt already be familiar with some of the big hits included here, without necessarily previously being aware of Spruill’s input. Wilbert Harrison’s massive R&B hit, Kansas City that opens this set being an obvious example of this. Spruill’s scratchy rhythm guitar and stirring solo feature prominently, as it does on the fantastic Fannie Mae by Buster Brown. And his guitar riffery is all over the tremendous No 9 Train by Tarheel Slim, which also includes an explosive guitar solo to drool over.

The real beauty of this release however is that the majority of the tracks on offer here are little known and less frequently anthologised numbers. This of course means that there are plenty of unknown delights to now enjoy, from Bob Gaddy’s soulful and sedate reading of Till The Day I Die, to  the intense blues of Tarheel Slim & Little Ann’s It’s Too Late and Little Danny’s Mind On Loving You. Bobby Long’s version of The Pleasure Is All Mine is another one of many new treasures uncovered, along with Jim & Bob Harrison’s tender Please Don’t Hurt Me. On these and most other tracks, Spruill’s always tasteful guitar is a prominent delight but as and where its existence is less obvious (such as on I’m Worried by Elmore James or Dedicated To The One I Love by The Shirelles) the music is of such a high standard that you simply just enjoy the music on offer.

And, if all this sterling support work was not enough, Spruill’s superlative guitar work also features to excellent effect on a number of instrumental sides under his own name. Check out Scratch ’N Twist, Slow Draggin’ and  Lonely Island and I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Review Date: October 2014

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