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Various Artists

Blues Kings of Baton Rouge

Review by Gary Hill

While a lot of attention has been focused over the years on blues scenes in towns like Memphis and Chicago, there was a prominent and vital blues movement in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This new set collects a number of recordings from 1954-1971 from artists of thaqt scene. The sound quality is generally quite good, and there is a nice variety of music here. I really like this a lot, and the cool packaging with nice booklet adds to the quality of this thing. If you want a quick primer on the blues scene of Baton Rouge, I can't imagine a much better starting point.

Bonus video footage of this release is available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG_Kx9G3bHY

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD One
                   
Slim Harpo - Blues Hang-Over

Harmonica and blues guitar open this and create the basis for the arrangement as it drives forward. The vocals are partly spoken on this thing.

Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas - Who Broke The Lock
There is an extended introduction to this cut that explains the origins of the tune. The cut has a real down-home vibe to it and a question and answer vocal arrangement.
Lightnin’ Slim - Bad Luck
Real old-school, down-home blues is on the menu here. The harmonica lends some magic to the piece.
Lightnin’ Slim - Bugger Bugger Boy
Energetic old-time blues jamming is the order of business here. This has some classic riffs and sound.
Schoolboy Cleve - Strange Letter Blues
I dig the raw blues sound on this thing. The cut features some cool guitar and harmonica.
Clarence Edwards - Smokestack Lightning
There is a real sense of pain in the vocal performance here. The arrangement features a violin for good effect along with the typical guitar. There is a real meaty sound to this. This is precisely the kind of thing that really influenced the rock music of the 1970s.
Robert Pete Williams - Angola Special
The vocals on this are almost spoken at times. The acoustic guitar serves as the backdrop for the piece.
Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas - Jelly Roll
There is some real country sound to this old school tune. It's down-home hoedown styled blues.
Slim Harpo - I’m A King Bee

This is a blues classic. I love the bass sound on this thing. The sexual innuendos are all over this. This is an entertaining tune.

Lonesome Sundown - My Home Is A Prison

I really like this electric blues tune a lot. It has a cool energy and groove to it.

Lightnin’ Slim - Mean ‘Ol Lonesome Train
With a harmonica leading to a spoken bit, this cut works out to a pretty standard blues jam from there. The tune is energized and classy.
Clarence Edwards - Stack O’ Dollars
There is some bluegrass texture in the mix on this arrangement, but overall it's a full-on old-school blues sound.
Robert Pete Williams - Come Here Baby
A stripped down acoustic blues, this cut works well.
Sally Dotson & Smokey Babe - Your Dice Won’t Pass
I like this acoustic blues song a lot. The duet element is a nice touch.
Lazy Lester - They Call Me Lazy
Another old school blues tune, this is strong.
Jimmy Dotson - Looking For My Baby
I dig the energized soulful groove on this thing. It's a powerhouse tune that works really well.
Raful Neal - Crying Hard
This is another down-home old-school blues tune.
Lazy Lester - I’m A Lover Not A Fighter
With a lot of energy and groove, this is much more of a rock and roller. It feels very much like a lot of the 1950s rock and roll.
Lightnin’ Slim - Lightnin’s Troubles
This stomper is so much fun. It has a rocking blues texture to it and some great harmonica.
Slim Harpo - One More Day

A cool electric blues groove drives this thing with a lot of style.

Lightnin’ Slim - Rooster Blues
I love the jazzy kind of vibe on this number. It has energy and is packed full of "cool."
Lightnin’ Slim & Lazy Lester - Trip To Chicago (alt)
This has such a classic blues sound to it. There is some great conversation built into this, really telling a story. I'd consider this one of the highlights of the set.
Slim Harpo - What A Dream
I love the guitar fills on this tune. The whole tone and mode are classy, too. This is a solid blues number.
Smokey Babe & Clyde Causey - Black Gal
The harmonica brings some magic to the piece. The whole tune grooves with a lot of style.
Smokey Babe & Lazy Lester - Mississippi River So Deep And Wide
This down-home acoustic blues tune works quite well.
Herman E. Johnson - Depression Blues
This is a down-in-the-gutter blues with a lot of desperation built into it.
CD Two
                   
Slim Harpo - Rainin’ In My Heart

There is some definite country music texture to this, along with some old-school rock and roll. I'm not as much a fan of this sound as I am of some of the other stuff here.

Lightnin’ Slim - I’m Tired Waitin’ Baby
We're back into electric blues zones with this powerhouse cut.
Tabby Thomas - Hoodo Party
I dig the classic blues sound on this number.
Lonesome Sundown - My Home Ain’t Here
There is such a killer jazzy blues sound built into this thing. It's a fun number that works so well.
Jimmy Anderson - Naggin’

I like the jazz groove on this tune. The harmonica solo is cool, and the whole cut oozes style and charm.

Silas Hogan - Trouble At Home Blues
There is a down-home angle to this, but it also showcases some electric blues elements. I like the interplay between the guitar and harmonica.
Lightnin’ Slim - Winter Time Blues
More classic blues is on display on this smoking number.
Jimmy Anderson - Going Through the Park
Electric based, this has a bit of a rock and roll element at play. Still, it's all blues at its core.
Lightnin’ Slim - I’m Evil

This electric blues number has a real mean vibe to it. It's energized and so cool. It's a highlight of the set.

The Nitehawks - Boogie Chillun
A raw rocking texture makes up the concept here. This is definitely up-tempo and leans toward rock and roll zones.
Whispering Smith - Mean Woman Blues
This killer blues number works so well. The vocal delivery really emotes. The guitar fills are tasty, too.
Silas Hogan - I’m Goin In The Valley
A pretty mainstream blues rock groove is on hand for this classy tune. It's fun stuff.
Silas Hogan - Dark Clouds Rollin’
This is built on a classic electric blues sound. It's another strong tune.
Lightnin’ Slim - Can’t Live This Life No More
This thing sounds like "Little Red Rooster." It's a classic blues number with some great harmonica blowing on it.
Isaiah Chattman - Cold In Hand
Down-home acoustic blues is the idea here. This is another solid tune.
Slim Harpo - Baby Scratch My Back
There is a playful kind of rock and roll vibe to this. It has some cool harmonica work, and a great mostly spoken vocal delivery. This is a fun tune that's another highlight of the set.
Slim Harpo - I’m Gonna Miss You (Like The Devil)
Blues and rock and roll merge here on this accessible piece.
Silas Hogan - Hoo Doo Blues
This is a live recording. It is a classy blues stomper that works pretty well.
Henry Gray - Showers Of Rain
Piano brings this into being and serves as the backdrop for the vocals. This arrangement brings some real variety to the set.
Arthur Kelley - Number Ten At The Station (And Number 12 Is On The Road)
I dig the stripped back guitar blues sound of this cut.
Arthur Kelley - How Can I Stay (When All I Have Is Gone)
A classy electric blues grind is at the heart of this piece. It's an evocative and vital number.
Moses Smith - Baton Rouge Breakdown
This is a harmonica solo that lends some nice variety and style.
Silas Hogan - Honey Bee Blues
Acoustic blues, I like this piece quite a bit. There is a real down-home texture to it.
Silas Hogan - I Didn’t Tell Her To Leave
A classic old-school electric blues sound makes up the concept of this number.
Slim Harpo - The Music’s Hot

This is a fun blues rocker.

Robert Pete Williams - Goodbye Slim Harpo

This is very much down-home acoustic blues. I love the guitar work on the tune.

Slim Harpo - Talking Blues

Harmonica brings this tune into being, and other instruments join in a bit. This stays fairly understated, but still manages to really ooze the cool. It seems to cut off right in the middle of the song, though.

 
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