Big Bill Broonzy, Trouble in Mind

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
An energetic tour through the blues.

Recorded when Broonzy was 63, just a year away from his death from cancer in 1958, you'd never guess this was made by a mortally ailing man. From the brisk opener, "Hey Baby," this is a energetic tour through the blues from someone whose career rode the genre from Mississippi house parties to international fame. From "Louise" to his own signature piece, "Key to the Highway," he's not only in fine, muscular voice but his guitar playing is supple, whether on adroit rhythm or inventive lead. As a reminder that Broonzy was a songster, not just a bluesman, he throws in "Frankie and Johnny" and the gospel of "This Train," as well as reflecting racial tensions of the period on "Black, Brown and White." It's a master class in the Delta sound, with an epic sense of the closing of a chapter of history. As classic performances go, they don't come much bigger than this, and as a memorial to one of American's greatest bluesmen, it's perfect.