Roosevelt Sykes, Roosevelt Sykes Vol. 2 (1930-1931)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

From Arkansas and St. Louis, Sykes came up barrelhousing in the lumber camps. His career took him to Chicago and New Orleans, with his joyful boogie woogie style evolving accordingly. A crucial rural-to-urban transition figure who stayed active into the '60s, he's unjustly overlooked today. He played with precision, right down to the jazzy fills, even though he sounded abandoned; his timing and melodic sense were impeccable, and he squeezed the most out of a limited voice. Sykes made standards out of "44 Blues" (his rough-hewn debut single), "Driving Wheel," Sweet Home Chicago" and "The Honeydripper" (his 1945 cover of Joe Liggins, not the song of the same name he'd cut in 1936). He was also known for unabashed raunch like "Dirty Mother for You." And in 1933, he accompanied the unheralded Carl Rafferty on "Mr. Carl's Blues," apparently the first song containing the immortal line, "I do believe I'll dust my broom."