Tag Archives: Allman Brothers

King of the Georgia Blues

22 Jan

Blind Willie McTell

“Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell” wrote  Bob Dylan back in 1983 (although he didn’t actually release the song, ‘Blind Willie McTell‘ until 1991).

I didn’t buy this six CD box-set just on the basis of Dylan’s recommendation – I’d been aware of him for a long time before, not least through Ralph May who so admired the man’s guitar playing that he incorporated it into his own stage name, Ralph McTell in homage!

This package, released in 2007 on Snapper Music as part of a wider project (‘Complete Blues – the Works) designed to showcase the work of several dozen vintage blues musicians is clearly a work of love.  Although it doesn’t include every last note of music recorded by Willie McTell , born ‘McTier’ (1901? – 1959) it does include more than 100 tracks spanning the period 1927  to 1949.

Arranged chronologically, the package includes a well-produced biographical essay and full details of the recordings (dates and personnel).

The material includes  includes some religious tracks (‘Ain’t it grand to be a Christian’  and ‘Old Time Religion, Amen’ for example) and spoken monologues as well as secular blues. These include ‘Statesboro Blues’ which was  covered by the Allman Brothers Band and ‘Lord, Send Me An Angel’ which was covered by the White Stripes.

My own favourites include ‘Southern Can Mama’, ‘Georgia Rag’  and ‘Dirty Mistreater’ on which he’s accompanied by Curley Weaver.

What these and the other tracks showcase is McTell’s light, clear tenor and fluid guitar work on a range of his own songs plus traditional and other material.

Despite the fairly basic quality of some of the recordings, the musicianship shines through.