Leroy Carr, Leroy Carr Vol. 5 (1934)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Though now largely forgotten, this Indianapolis dandy was arguably the most popular bluesman of his time, an influence on everyone from Robert Johnson to Count Basie, Howlin’ Wolf to the Inkspots. His urbane style showcased his high, tugging voice more than his suave but unremarkable piano. But his accompanist Scrapper Blackwell was a virtuoso, providing a distinct, single-note guitar style that was such a perfect foil the two men got equal billing on their initial releases; Leroy floated like a butterfly while Scrapper stung like a bee. “How Long-How Long Blues,” his debut single and an instant standard, sets a mood thick as quicksand, while “Blues Before Sunrise,” whose opening line unleashes a striking internal rhyme, shows how Carr’s songwriting put a smooth sheen on rough, traditional imagery. Think of Carr as the Charles Brown of his day.