Hardly the First Bluesmen and Women
Tony Thomas | SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL USA | 02/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The title of this CD and its statuis as "collectors edition" is misleading. Of these musicians, perhaps Leadbelly and Gus Cannon were among the first generation to play the blues, but the rest were not. Gus Cannon was not primarily a blues player, but a player of the kind of pop ragtime and Black minstrel show derived music that was popular alongside the blues in the era before commercial recordings of African American blues took place. Broonzy was hardly the first generation of Blues players, speaking of how he was taught the blues by a banjo-playing uncle who was in the first generation of blues players.
Some of these folks were among the first generation of commercially recorded folk Blues singers. The Blues started sometime in the late 1880s or 1890s and became a crystalized national genre in the very early 20th century at the same time that inexpensive steel string guitar because available across the South.
By 1914, the Blues had already been established as a major genre in first Black professional entertainment and then white professional entertainment. Recording of Blues and its predecssor "Coon Shouting" by white vaudeville performers began before the 1920s. In 1920, Black vaudville and minstrel show blues performers like Ma Rainey, Clara Smith, and others began to be recording. In the mid 1920s, a Black vaudville songstress whose roots were in the Southern Black Folk Blues, Bessie Smith became a massive seller or records to African Americans and beyond. This finally led the recording industry to record African American down home folk Blues artists like several on this CD.
However, these recordings did not begin until 25 or 30 years after the emergence of the Blues. Leadbelly, for example, was not recorded in the first wave of commercial Blues recordings in the 1920s, but in the mid 1930s.
What we have is some very good blues artists playing on tracts the manufacturer of this CD has access to. These are mostly second generation blues musicians. Most of this material is easily available on other CDs and records before them, so this is not a collectors edition in reality.
If you want to hear something close to the first generation of Blues singers, find some of the recordings of Texas Henry Thomas. They sound nothing like this."