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neumu
Thursday, November 23, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
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+ Espers - II
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44.1 kHz Archive



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artist
Henry Thomas
recording
Texas Worried Blues: Complete Recorded Works 1927-1929
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"Fishing Blues," more than any other single song, serves as Taj Mahal's signature tune. The song anchors Giant Steps/Dem Ole Folks at Home and is a perennial favorite in Mahal's live repertoire. "Fishing Blues" even appears as a standout collaboration between Mahal and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on the Dirt Band's recent roots collection Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol. 3.

The song is an infectious musical smile — a simple folk tune with a jumpy rhythm, cheery vocals and a timeless summer theme: fishing. I've heard it played through car stereos, drifting through smoke at backyard barbecues, and played for children at bedtime and birthday parties. But I'd never heard the original until I stumbled across a copy of Henry Thomas' Texas Worried Blues on a particularly down day of a particularly down year (2002). Driven by curiosity, I slid the CD into a player and pushed play. Before the music poured out of the speakers, a few questions cycled through my head: "Who is Henry Thomas? Is this the original version of the 'Fishing Blues?' Is this collection worth the price of a used CD?"

Then, the revelation. Through the pops and hiss of a typical 78-to-CD transfer came Thomas' bouncy rhythm guitar, mellow vibrato voice and the real kicker — the quills (a pan flute made of cane). I'd never heard pan flute accompanying blues before, in a role often filled by harmonica. Chiming in during Thomas' vocal breaks, the quills sounded as natural as bird songs and train whistles, providing an infectious levity to the often heavy subject matter of Thomas' lyrics.

A broad smile stretched across my face. It mattered little that Texas Worried Blues was released in 1989. It mattered little that the Vocalion recordings on the compilation are some of the earliest recorded blues (1927-1929), or that Henry Thomas was over 50 years old at the time of the sessions. What mattered was the great, timeless music in the air, music full of genuine human emotion, originality and soul.

It's easy to see why Bob Dylan covered "Honey, Won't You Allow Me One More Chance?" on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, why Canned Heat retooled "Bull Doze Blues" into "Going Up the Country," and the Grateful Dead covered "Don't Ease Me In." It's also easy to see why Taj Mahal centered his career around "Fishing Blues."

The charm of Thomas' songwriting and delivery emerges from subject matter and sounds gleaned from personal experience and various folk-music traditions. Although the territory traversed by Thomas' songs has been mined beyond cliché in recent decades, the short glimpses he provides of work ("Cottonfield Blues"), transience ("Arkansas," "When the Train Comes Along"), revenge ("Bob McKinney"), unrequited love/sex ("Don't Leave Me Here"), religion ("Jonah In the Wilderness"), folk heroes ("John Henry") and simple pleasures ("Fishing Blues") sparkle with the power of precedence and living tradition.

The simplicity of Thomas' music often belies its depth. The quills on "Railroadin' Some" mimic rail cars rattling on tracks, and steam whistles communicating station stops. In between these vérité sounds, Thomas calls out a list of rail destinations across the U.S. Like others on this compilation, the song documents its time period with a distinctly turn-of-the-last-century American wanderlust, melancholy and occasional transcendence.

Digested entirely in one sitting, Texas Worried Blues grows a little repetitious. However, sampled in chunks of four or five songs at a time, the recorded works of Henry Thomas have the effect of stumbling across a scruffy American busker of unusual caliber from an era long gone, but still entrenched within the American mind and experience.

Long after this year's trendy, polished and predictable phenomena have faded from the bulky belly of disposable print and their respective 15 seconds of televised and digitized vanity, "Fishing Blues" and Henry Thomas' 22 other dance, rag, minstrel and blues songs will live on — from 78 to CD to MP3 and beyond. And, a world where Henry Thomas' jangly genuineness remains in print is surely worth living in.


by Christian Arial




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