Various Artists

Various Artists
Delmark 60 Years of Blues

Delmark Records - DE917

By David Wilson
January 2014

Here is a compilation that is helping me to catch up with many of the urban blues mutations that have occurred over the last 50 years. I was privileged to participate in the earlier decade as a distributor in the Boston area for many of the small specialty Blues labels including Delmark. It is hard to believe today that we were literally chased out of many record stores with threats that the police would be called should we attempt to bring our “filth” into their stores again. What first attracted me Delmark, and subsequently Delmark records were their earlier lps featuring Big Joe Williams and the then and still unique, Sleepy John Estes.

When Delmark began to release product featuring some of the Chicago urban Blues innovators, Junior Wells and Magic Sam for instance, no one was more suspicious than I and worried about the direction Delmark might be headed in. Several long distance, long expensive phone conversations with Delmark’s founder and guiding light, Bob Koester brought me around to an understanding of how our favorite musical form was just not going to stay within the confines that an oppressive white bread cultural mentality attempted to impose upon it.

I worried about how distorted the honesty of the original expressions could become, (yes, I was that naïve in those days), but Bob was having none of it and I ended up convinced that with his taste and sensitivity to the music, Delmark would at least continue to pay homage to the core passions that constituted the integrity of the form. If this release is any example, Bob and Delmark have hewed the line far truer than many other Blues labels.

Sixteen cuts take us through the years although not by any means in chronological order. “When They Played The Real Blues,” my first, but by no means my last listen to Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings launches the program with energy and panache, followed quickly by Junior Wells and his now classic “Rock Me Baby.” Other classics include Big Joe Williams “‘44’ Blues, “ and the juicy “Stop That Thing,” by Sleepy John Estes, plus an appearance by The Little Walter Trio, yep Little Walter on vocals and harp with Muddy Waters on guitar and Baby Face Leroy on guitar and bass drum, “Just Keep Lovin’ Her,”whoa, nelly. I was not as enthralled with Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire. Their performance of Blues train seemed most unremarkable to me.

Also new to me, but arousing some curiosity are Lurrie Bell, Detroit Jr. and Toronzo Cannon who closes out the program.

How they managed to settle for just these as representative of the last 60 years is a mystery to me, but I recommend the effort to you without reservation. I’m told Bob Koester still turns up every day for work. Just goes to show you what love of the music can do for a man.

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