World Music Network is taking audiences back in time again with another compilation of timeless music from a bygone era. The company released its new compilation, The Rough Guide to the Roots Of The Blues Friday. The 25-song collection of classic blues tunes is an enjoyable presentation that blues aficionados and music lovers alike will appreciate. That is due in no small part to the songs featured in the record. They will be discussed shortly. The actual presentation of the songs adds to the record’s appeal. It will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important items and will also be addressed. Each noted item is key in its own way to the whole of this compilation. All things considered, they make The Rough Guide to the Roots of The Blues another positive addition to World Music Network’s ongoing series of historical musical collections.
World Music Network’s new blues compilation The Rough Guide to The Rough Guide to the Roots of The Blues is an enjoyable presentation that blues aficionados and music lovers alike will appreciate. It is not the first blues compilation that the company has ever released. Its most recent blues compilation The Rough Guide to Blues Women was released just last year. Much like that compilation – and every “Rough Guide” compilation that the company has released – the songs that make up the body of the record form its foundation. Jimmie Rodgers’ timeless ‘Blue Yodel No. 1’ takes listeners back to 1927 (the year it was recorded) while Cow Cow Davenport’s equally timeless ‘Cow Cow Blues’ goes even farther back, — two years more to be exact – to 1925. Bessie Smith’s ‘St. Louis Blues’ keeps listeners in 1925 while Scrapper Blackwell’s ‘Kokomo Blues’ is also here. It was recorded in 1928. Also from that same era is Weaver and Beasley’s ‘Bottleneck Blues,’ which was recorded in 1928. Simply put, the songs themselves serve as a musical history lesson of the blues from its earliest days. On a side note, PBS’ recent documentary Country Music noted ‘Blue Yodel No. 1’ was also part of the rots of country music. The thing is that blues and country are very closely linked, so it could be seen why that song is considered blues just as much as it is country.
Staying on the topic of styles, the songs that are featured in this compilation are so important because they do represent just one style of the blues. Blackwell’s musical style is considered to be a pure example of early Chicago and Piedmont blues. In the case of ‘Kokomo Blues,’ audiences are treated to his more Piedmont blues style, with that distinct finger picking that relies on the alternating thumb bass pattern. By contrast, Blind Blake’s ‘West Coast Blues,’ with its more upbeat style is a prime example of ragtime style blues, with its syncopated rhythms. Here again is another distinct style of blues to which audiences are introduced thanks to this recording. Hambone Willie Newbern’s 1929 hit ‘Roll and Tumble Blues’ offers audiences yet another distinct blues style – delta blues – through the use of his slide guitar performance. Newbern’s very vocal performance adds even more to that Delta blues style richness. It’s just one more example of the varied blues styles featured throughout the recording. Together with the consideration of the songs themselves – the very diversity of the artists and the era from which the songs were culled – what audiences get here is a virtual musical history lesson on the blues from this recording. That in itself makes the compilation a worthwhile addition to any home and classroom setting. It is just one part of what makes the collection stand out. The very presentation of the songs plays its own key part to the whole of the recording.
The presentation of the songs is important because it plays into the never-ending discussion on whether one prefers vinyl or CD. A close listen to this single-disc collection shows the original works were transferred to CD without a single bit of loss. That beloved sound of static is there from start to finish while not a single bit of any arrangement is missing. This is important to note in that it shows that despite what so many people and companies want people to think, there is still very much a place for CDs as well as vinyl and digital. In other words, the sound quality of the recordings featured here is just as impressive as the songs and their intrinsic value. That full sound presentation, which transports listeners back to that beautiful, bygone era enhances the listening experience for listeners that much more. When this is considered along with the songs and the history that they teach, these elements collectively make this compilation that much more of a positive for any music lover just as much as any blues aficionado. It shows that CDs will never be replaced, as their audio is just as good as any vinyl that any hipster wants to take in.
The songs featured in The Rough Guide to the Roots of The Blues and the history that they teach couples strongly with their presentation to make this record another positive offering from World Music Network. As much as they do to help the recording, they are not its only key elements. The recording’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. As already noted, the compilation features a variety of blues styles throughout its 76-minute body. Those styles vary from one song to the next. That in itself shows that those behind the compilation’s creation wanted to ensure at least in this aspect, that listeners were kept engaged and entertained. The song’s tempos – and by connection their energies – vary just as much as the styles. Case in point is the first trio of songs, ‘When The Levee Breaks,’ ‘Kokomo Blues’ and ‘Stack O’Lee Blues.’ ‘Stack O’Lee Blues’ will come as very familiar to many audiences. It was the work that would eventually become ‘Frankie and Johnny,’ which itself would be reworked many times throughout the years. Getting back on the subject at hand, the first two songs featured in this trio are mid-tempo works, but are themselves very different from one another in terms of styles. As the record reaches ‘Stack O’Lee Blues,’ the energy and emotion changes very noticeably. From there, things pick back up slightly with ‘West Coast Blues.’ That energy is maintained in ‘Fishing Blues.’ That song, too, will be very familiar to many audiences. Things change distinctly again after that work, as the record progresses into Memphis Jug Band’s ‘Stealin’, Stealin’.’ The song is a good, mid-tempo work that does a positive job of illustrating the subject’s own thoughts on the things that he is doing even though he knows those things are wrong. From there, the record pulls back once again in ‘Victoria Spivey’s T.B. Blues.’ The mournful nature of her vocal delivery joins with the equally bluesy guitar and piano run to make the whole another nice transition point for the record in whole. The ups and downs in the record’s energies and tempos continues solidly from that point right to the record’s end. Throughout the process, audiences’ engagement and entertainment is ensured without any doubt. It is obvious in considering this that a lot of time and thought was put into the compilation’s sequencing, not just the songs and their value. The compilation’s organizers wanted to make sure that every base was covered with this offering, and they succeeded in doing so. The fact that the compilation’s organizers paid so much attention to this and other aspects of the recording results in a presentation that is another welcome piece for any classroom, and home setting.
The Rough Guide to the Roots of The Blues is a work that, like its predecessors, will be appreciated equally by educators and general audiences alike. That is proven in part through the songs that make up the body of the recording. They make the recording a rich history lesson on the blues that any blues aficionado and music lover alike will welcome. The sound quality in the recordings is important in its own right to the whole of the recording. That is because it shows it is possible to transfer vintage recordings to CD without a single bit off loss. This is important to note in that it shows the CD is still very much a viable form of audio presentation, despite what many companies and consumers want people to think. The sequencing of this record rounds out its most important elements. It does its own share to ensure listeners remain engaged and entertained throughout the record’s hour-plus run time. Each item is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation. All things considered, they make this another of this year’s best new offerings in the jazz and blues category. More information on this another other titles from World Music Network is available online at;
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