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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2006
Big Bill was one of the first African-American musicians to bring accoustic folk-blues to a wider audience. Many listeners familiar with his 1950s work will be surprised by this early raggy, hokum-tinged material which is supremely delightful. Bill's guitar playing is well featured, and he was a master of the syncopated thumb and the delicately dancing fingers. If you like Blind Blake or Merle Travis, Bill had another variation on that beautiful and deceptively simple Southeastern U. S. approach. This CD also has some good early vocals by Bill (his voice got deeper and more expressive later) along with appearances by Thomas ("Georgia Tom") Dorsey of later Gospel music fame. As if all this wasn't enough, this disc includes probably the only currently available release of "Terrible Operation Blues," one of the most hilarious "party blues" ever recorded. Overall, a great addition to any blues collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2001
Bill Broonzy gets small mention in blues histories, but he was, in his day, a very popular and versatile blues performer. This record features early recordings of Broonzy on his own, and with piano and other vocalists. Highlights include an emotional and contemplative pair of solos: "Worryin' You Off My Mind" (a permutation of the popular 'Sitting on Top of the World') and "Big Bill Blues." The guitar duet "Do That Guitar Rag" is a flashy instrumental, while "Pussy Cat Blues" (sung by a female vocalist) has Broonzy filling in around a piano and the deliciously bawdy lyrics. All in all, a fine collection of a talented artist finding his voice.
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on November 25, 2008
I am in the process of reading and re-reading many of the books of oral history interviews collected by the recently departed Studs Terkel. As part of that process I have read his last work (published in 2007), a memoir of sorts but really a series of connected vignettes, that goes a long way to putting the pieces of Studs' eclectic life together. A fact that I did not know is that Studs' had radio and television music shows in the Chicago of the 1950's. On one of those shows he performed with the blues/jazz folk artist under review here, Big Bill Broonzy. That long ago reference was enough for this reviewer to scamper back to give a listen to the melodious voice of one of the best in these traditions. But that begs the question where to start?

That is not merely a rhetorical question here. My first exposure to Big Bill, back in the mists of times, was as a performer on a Sunday night folk program here in Boston. In that format he was presented as a folk singer in the style of a black Pete Seeger. Including many leftist political songs dealing with the pressing questions of race and class. Later I found some more jazzy works by him and some more raucous material in the old country blues tradition. So I hope you can see my dilemma.

The hard fact is that certain musicians, certain very talented musicians, can work more than one milieu or can transform themselves (for commercial or other reasons) into more than one genre. Moreover, in Big Bill's case, the confluence of folk, blues and jazz at some points is fairly close. That surely is the case here on this CD compilation. So give a listen to that voice, that guitar and those wonderful songs. At this time Big Bill was influenced by (and in turn influenced) the country blues mania then sweeping the black enclaves of the South (and not just those enclaves either- think about Jimmy Rodgers) and the songs here reflect that origin. What's good? "Guitar Rag", of course. "Down in the Basement" and "Bull Cow Blues" deserve a listen but for my money "Operation Blues" is tops here.

Added note: I "forgot" to add that on many of these tracks Big Bill has company. On some tracks that company is none other than the legendary Tom Dorsey (who also played behind Blind Wille McTell and many others in those days before going on to a gospel music career). On other tracks, in addition to Dorsey, the very, very bluesy voice of Jane Lucas is heard. Listen to "Leave My Man Alone". Nice, indeed.
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on December 11, 2009
This CD holds what I consider to be Bill's best work. The Terrible Operation Blues, Guitar Rag and Grandma's Farm are favorites. His duets with Frank Brasswell are stunning. Georgia Tom Dorsey plays a rolling good time piano in the novelty Terrible Operation that makes me want to sing along every time I hear it. I had this on vinyl when first issued by Yazoo and wore it out.
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