Boy Williamson: King Biscuit Time (Arhoolie CD 310)
Well before Muddy moved to Chicago...one Rice Miller -
aka Sonny Boy Williamson II was - w/the crucial
aid of Robert Johnsons son-in-law (Robert Jnr. Lockwood)
& an anarchic ex-tapdancer called James Peck
Curtis - busily modernising the delta blues...courtesy
of their sponsor King Biscuit Flour on local
Arkansas station KFFA.
Regular broadcasts - sans Peck - started as early as
1941...right before the start of the wartime shellac shortage.
Within a year, Rice & Robertd roped in the mighty
Peck - undoubtedly thee finest free-form blues
drummer ever (no contest), soon to be followed by one
Dudlow on piano - and they could...then, easily
(in those isolated days), pretend to be what they damn-well
But - interestingly - what they were was far, far more
important than what the (real) Sonny Boy had to offer
by this stage... Because, whilst he was still (basically)
delivering one more variation on the Bluebird
house sound of 30s Chicago blues...down south, Rice &
Robert were in the midst of developing the original band
approach that served as the engine-room of all of the
rockin Mississippi valley sounds to emerge over
the next decade or so...including rockabilly, Id
venture to say...
Still...thats not - exactly - what (finally) made
it onto record, nigh-on a decade later. Robert Jnr. was
long gone (although his heir stuck to his sound), and
Peck - despite his radio fame - was considered
far too weird for recording purposes. Still...the result
is the closest well (now) hear to that historically
crucial outfit (apart from one Ike Turner-recorded session
- w/dodgy sound - thats also never been widely available).
The characteristic feel is best described as pumping -
the vocals/harp riding atop, amidst the (somewhat) muffled,
yet richly distorted guitar lead/rhythm - underpinned
by the mostly inextricably mixed piano/drums groove, whilst...snapping
his fingers, and slyly mouthing many of the finest original
lines in modern blues, Sonny Boy gleefully
screwed w/our minds...
And, that aint all. Because - unlike any of its
competitors we have on record - this was a band that,
even w/out the truly anarchic Peck on board,
clearly enjoyed turning the beat around...most evidently
on the stunning Come on Back Home.
Still...admittedly, Id have to say that this collection
is far from ideally programmed...not to mention the fact
that a handful of the very finest cuts - such as the truly
awesome No Nights by Myself - arent
here...but, most of the best are. However, Arhoolie -
in characteristically generous fashion - have also included
a genuinely rugged radio broadcast from the early 60s
- this time including the mighty Peck...so,
youd have to be a fool to miss this one. Cause blues
literally turning into rocknroll has never
been so evident as here...in (crucial) King Biscuit Time...
John Henry Calvinist