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Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe: Volume 1 (Document DOCD-5028)


Only one short step from Stokes & Sane (the Beale St. Sheiks, themselves)...and, yet it was the big one. Memphis Minnie - and the originally “dominant” Kansas Joe - drove Memphis two guitar action forthwith to Chicago. And nevermind the Depression, this rockin’ roll sold all around the place...

Been stole from - from Muddy Waters to Led Zeppelin - yet...still, the original duo cut ‘em, let me tell you... "When the Leveee Breaks", for example, was a classic well before the latter got their (grubby) hands upon it... Minnie’s dancing lead/rhythm patterns, in particular, were lost in the process - and they, damnit, were by far the best of the original... "Bumble Bee", I’d have to say, was a closer call - and I’d be hesitant not to give it to Mr. Morganfield, were it not for the insane eruptions of the Memphis Jug Band on version number three... Still, that takes nothing from Minnie & Joe...since this remains one of the very finest guitar duo collections, ever...

Because, the rolling semi-freestyle duo (& trio) guitar interplay developed in and near Memphis during the twenties has never been equalled, in its mix of fleet-footed lead/rhythm & rocking/grounded rhythm/lead. There were a bunch of them in the twenties - Stokes & Sane were the elders & led the pack. But...of these, only this pair survived the Depression.

The roll was easier, here - lightly poised somewhere between Stokes/Sane & Akers/Callicott, say - and so, the pulse moved further from 2/4 to 4/4, yet without sacrificing the essential feel at all... The result mostly grooved more than rocked (twenties-style), and offered the most crucial direct Memphis influence upon 30s Chicago blues. And, if you want to hear them most clearly...try tracks 19-23 here, as these are the veritable Memphis/Chicago turnover in essence. - As well, of course, they also offer the very best recorded sound herein. Cause these recordings date from1929-30, and - albeit they are of high quality, given their date - thanks be to RCA - there’s a marked fidelity increase (mostly) throughout...

Look, Minnie & Joe were amongst the greats. Sure, there’s a buncha “substandard” stuff here, too - if’n you define “substandard” as nonetheless intoxicatingly rhythmic stuff (cause that’s guaranteed) - but there’s - as yet - no genuinely definitive selective collection available, so...I (really) don’t wanna play that kinda game..

“Cause, I’m wild about the stuff”




John Henry Calvinist