St. Louis Jimmy Oden, Blues Legend – The Best Of

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 01.03.13 in Reviews

Had he never written and recorded anything except “Goin’ Down Slow” — which is only one of the half-dozen or so most enduring blues songs ever — Oden’s place in history would be assured. As it is, he’s known primarily as a songwriter, and while that is where he made his greatest mark once he went to Chicago, his singing and playing are often regarded with condescension. Yet his voice is hardly lacking in back-alley grit, and his piano style digs deeper than many. More importantly, he made fairly imaginative records, mostly of his own songs, in the ’30s and ’40s; check out that wicked big-city fiddle in “Six Feet in the Ground,” “Pipe Layin’ Blues” and “I Have Made Up My Mind,” for example, as well as his dreamy arrangement of “Yancey’s Blues.” And his own version of his calling card “Goin’ Down Slow” can hold its own against any of the celebrated remakes. Oden may not be an essential artist, but for the blues aficionado he’s a rewarding one on his own terms.