Each year at the Newport Blues Festival through the 1960s, great filmed recordings were made of aging bluesmen, including some of the greatest performers America has ever known, in any category.
In 1966 a group of the best were filmed backstage for Alan Lomax's ongoing preservation project, & now re-released on dvd including BlueRay as Devil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966.
The great old bluesman Skip James starts it all off with such an incredibly sweet high voice & blues guitar, singing the title song "Devil Got My Woman" plus "I'm So Glad" & "Worried Blues."
Skip's are very clear pure grand visual & audio recordings, about as close up & real as it can get without actually having such a singer over to dinner.
Bukka White takes over as friends dance & he bangs out a rocking bit of blues on metal gluitar. He performs "Baby You're Killing Me" & "Old Lady Blues."
The sound for his set isn't as perfect as Skip's, but the music is so damned natural & right, definitely as much roots-rock as it is blues.
Son House is third up. He does one song only, "Forever On My Mind," belting out this piece of blues all toothless & agonized, staring at the sky as lost love bursts out of his guitar. No one's dancing to this, but people are gazing at the old gent like they never heard such beautiful pain.
Howlin' Wolf with his electric guitar performs "Meet Me in the Bottom," "How Many More Years" & "Dust My Broom." He starts off with a lecture about what is the blues, then does his numbers with abject certainty of his own greatness.
Licking his harmonica & trying to eat it, treating his guitar like a lollipop licking it up & down, he mugs & puts on an array of wild expressions.
He obviously has a large sense of himself. There's nothing humble here, nor needs to be, though I wonder if he ever regretted asking the saxophonist to sit in on the recordings. He'd be better with just his own fine self.
Reverand Pearly Brown has a thoroughly rural sound, totally gospel rather than blues. He sings with vocal support from his uncredited wife Christine, in what is almost call & respond, as authentic as any geezer gets. He performs "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed & Burning," "Pure Religion" & "It's a Mean Old World."
So as not to leave this intimate blues concert on a gospel note, Bukka White gets a second set for two more numbers, singing "Please Don't Put Your Daddy Outdoors" then closing with "100th Man."
In sum this collection of performances is of the first water, & the greatest of these greats was Skip James.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl