This is a miscellany of Big Bill Broonzy's fifties recordings. The first CD begins with "Big Bill's Blues", ten recordings made in February 1956 in Philips studios in Holland, which the original sleeve note represents as a private party rather than a recording session, presumably to deflect the charge of commercialism. That is followed by "Big Bill Broonzy Sings The Blues", nine recordings made a week earlier in Paris with Kansas Fields on drums, and issued in full on a French 10" LP, and minus "Diggin' My Potatoes" on two UK EPs……
In 2001 the U.K.-based Westside reissue label began releasing CD two-fers featuring '50s and '60s folk crooner Jimmie F. Rodgers. His albums for Roulette Records had been out of print for well over three decades. Rather than reissuing the discs chronologically, however, Westside chose a thematic approach. For some artists, such could easily be considered historic hara-kiri. However, this is not the case with Rodgers – as this initial installment amply demonstrates.
Originally recorded in 1957, these sessions turned out to be the last the legendary Big Bill Broonzy would record; only a little over a year later, he succumbed to lung cancer. This collection consists not of fan or producer favorites, but Broonzy favorites, and includes a variety of blues, folk, and devotional music. Though he was instrumental to the development of the blues and the Chicago sound, much of the material on this three-disc set reaches back to the music that the blues came from, with a lot of drop-in help from Broonzy's friends, of which there were many. That makes these recordings not only recordings, but documentation, a testament to a bluesman who was at once musician and historian.
Blasters founders Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had a famously combative relationship over the years, but as Dave once said, "We argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy." So it's fitting that their love of Big Bill brings them together in the recording studio for their first album together since the Blasters' Hard Line in 1985. Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play & Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy features the Alvin Brothers performing a dozen songs from the Broonzy songbook, and while listening to this is a potent reminder of how good Broonzy's songs still sound in the 21st century, it also demonstrates the complementary talents of Dave and Phil Alvin.
First up is Big Bill Broonzy pulling out all the stops for a smokey bistro set in '56 and '57, followed by a Roosevelt Sykes studio session from '61. Songs include The Honeydripper; Night Time Is the Right Time; Sweet Old Chicago; House Rent Stomp; Saturday Night Blues; Guitar Shuffle, and more.
Big Bill Broonzy’s recording career spanned from 1927 until his death in 1958. His repertoire was well recorded, from solo to duets to ensemble playing. He was rediscovered just as the "folk-revival" began in the early 1950s. Big Bill was a master of ragtime and country blues guitar. His playing was highlighted by a strong pulsating bass and melodic lead lines. Woody Mann carefully explains Big Bill’s techniques and style in this video lesson.