Comprised of field recordings made by John and Alan Lomax from 1935-78, the scope alone of this album is formidable. Many of the acts are obscure even to blues aficionados, yet icons like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Leadbelly, and Mississippi Fred McDowell are peppered throughout the nearly 2 1/2 hour playing time. Although the audio quality varies from excellent to primitive, the astounding remastering makes it all listenable. This is raw, pure, spine-tingling music played with the intense nothing-left-to-lose passion of ordinary people whose impossibly difficult lives are exposed in their voices and performances.
Chilling, mysterious, and even playful--sometimes simultaneously--this collection with 40 pages of detailed history, informative track-by-track notes, and forays into Cajun and spiritual side roads is most recommended to established blues fans wishing to further explore the roots of the genre. --Hal Horowitz