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Great blues collections have been available since the early days of vinyl. Back in the early 1960s, labels began recognizing how popular blues was becoming. There was a rediscovery of the genre going on, mainly because of the folk movement and British blues bands were covering artists such as Skip James, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and others. For this collection we focus on the unsung heroes of electric blues that were pressed on small labels. Many of these highly collectible 45s packed a wallop as there were no limitations. Loud and brash, these songs and instrumentals were powerful. It is still perplexing how players such as Lafayette Thomas, Jimmy Nolen, Jimmy Spruill (lead guitarist on Wibert Harrison’s version of “Kansas City”) could go so unrecognized. There was such simplicity and power in many of these recordings that they become part of the “oral tradition” in the blues genre. Check out Ike Turner as Icky Renrut (Turner spelled backwards), and the early Lonnie Brooks “Mr. Hot Shot.”
Many of these blues sides are up tempo, and rockin’. Unabashed, they incorporated some of the best elements of rhythm & blues but with a driving electric sound. On each of these, the guitar is upfront, not merely used as a rhythm influence. So many blues players today try and capture this sound, but to my ears no one has done it yet. Check out Prince Charles’ “Come On Home.” It sounds deceptively simple, yet many players forget that the spaces between the notes are as important as the ones you play. I am sure there is someone who knows more about Henry Artis & The Nitehawks. On some of the labels, the guitarist is listed and on others, it is hard to know. Consider this collection your introduction to the genre and make some new discoveries. If RockBeat ever decides to issue a Volume 2, we would like to hear from you. Send us a song suggestion….something on an indie label with a guitarist that you feel should be heard. If you have information, include it on the player as well. Email us at:
For now, dig the blues. There is a lot more where this comes from.