The Blues Masters series, much to Rhino`s credit, adopts an expansive definition of blues, allowing the likes of Count Basie, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters and even Louis Prima admission. There is none of the purist`s quibbling over strict 12-bar form or the relative significance of prewar and postwar styles.
What Rhino delivers instead is the blues in all its myriad guises. This music is old and new, black and white, acoustic and electric, folksy and jazzy, performed by women and men, and yet it is all still blues at its core.
This 45-song, two-disc collection is subtitled "two decades of killer fretwork", and never was a set so aptly described. Chess Records was the home to seemingly every hot guitar player in the Chicago area, and many of them make their appearance here. Besides the usual label guitar hotshots (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Lowell Fulson, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Robert Nighthawk, Little Milton), space is given to sideman work from legends like Hubert Sumlin and Robert Jr. Lockwood and great one-offs by lesser-known artists like Jody Williams, Danny Overbea, Eddie Burns, Joe Hill Louis, Morris Pejoe, Lafayette Thomas and others. It seems as if everyone recorded for Chess at one time or another, also explaining the inclusion of tracks by John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lonnie Brooks, Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James. If electric blues guitar's your thing, then look no further than this fine two-disc compilation.
Recorded over three days during March of 1984 at Wilebski's Bar in Minnesota, the 2002 DVD Blues Collection: Live at Wilebski's features performances from a variety of renowned performers, including John Lee Hooker, Dr. John, and Lady Bianca, among others. But its title is a tad misleading, as not all of the performers are blues artists – as evidenced by a pair of obscure outfits: the funk-based Willie & the Bees and the blues-rock of the Minnesota Barking Ducks. Due to time restrictions, most of the artists get only one song each on the set, as standouts include Hooker's classic "Boom Boom," Lady Bianca's soulful reading of "Imagination," Baby Doo Caston's "Low Down Dog," and Dr. John's "You Lied Too Much." Also included with the DVD are several bonus features, including individual artist biographies, the all-time blues Top 50, the story of the blues, and a blues trivia quiz, among others.