Various Artists – Birdman – A – Phone / Birdman, Old Country Blues, Volume 1

Mike McGonigal

By Mike McGonigal

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Old Country Blues, Volume 1

Various Artists - Birdman - A - Phone / Birdman
A young Swedish blues enthusiast with a tape recorder unearths a wealth of unheard blues

Self-financed and operating without much of a plan, a young Swedish blues enthusiast named Bengt Olsson bought a tape recorder and visited the South a few times in early 1974, working extra hours at a printing plant to pay for his trip. Along the way Olsson (who passed away in 2007) got kidnapped in Mississippi after attending one of fife-and-drum patriarch Othar Turner's harvest picnics. Olsson discovered and documented a wealth of obscure traditional music, much of it in Louisiana and Mississippi. He found blues-based musicians no one else had recorded, players of astonishing force. Lum Guffin's Delta slide playing may not be as accomplished as Fred McDowell's, but it's almost as powerful. Walter Miller sounds like he's been partying all night himself on the electric guitar plus vocals song "Stuttgart Arkansas"; it's the equal of anything Fat Possum ever released. Guffin even encountered a few overlooked greats from the '20s and '30s, such as Dewey Corley from the once hugely popular Beale Street Jug Band. The real revelation is the track by the Fife and Drum Band of the United Sons; fife and drum music is as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker. Until recently, Olsson's recordings had only been released on a few compilations on the European label Flyright in the '70s. Thanks to Birdman's purchase of all of Olsson's recordings, these undeservedly obscure recordings can now breathe new life.