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Acoustic Blues

Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends: Passin' the Faith Along

Bill & Gloria Gaither and Their Homecoming Friends: Passin' the Faith Along Lowest new price: $9.99
Lowest used price: $2.58
List price: $10.99
Brand: EMD

Bill and Gloria Gaither and dozens for their Homecoming Friends celebrate our heritage of faith in song and testimony in Passin’ The Faith Along. Not only do the songs recognize the authors of our Christian faith, but also departed gospel greats Brock Speer, J.D. Sumner and others are acknowledged. Joining the Homecoming regulars in the beautiful Indiana Ballroom are award-winning country and Broadway star Larry Gatlin, trumpet great Phil Driscoll, bluegrass gospel sensations the Lewis Family and the Isaacs, and award-winning gospel group The Steeles.

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Essence Lowest new price: $5.04
Lowest used price: $1.26
Brand: Virgin Emi Records
Model: 1972722

Lucinda Williams ~ Essence

Few artists in recent memory have been able to wring more from less than Lucinda Williams. The hauntingly beautiful, wistful, and often breathtaking Essence is another case in point of how far raw emotion and honesty can carry an artist. Williams's singing is at its paralyzing best throughout 11 bare originals, an incredibly affecting vocal performance by a woman who was not blessed with exceptional tone, range, or pitch. Throughout, her voice is incredibly naked, vulnerable, and wrought with feeling. "Blue" and "Broken Butterflies" are gorgeous anti-lullabies whose simple melodies belie their poignant ruminations. The title track is a sultry and susceptible sex-as-drug come-on while "Reason to Cry" has all the hallmarks of a classic country lament. The only departure from the subdued mood is "Get Right with God," a rousing gospel tune that practically begs for salvation through punishment and is the rare acknowledgement of a world beyond Williams's own fears and desires. More meditative than the personal narratives found on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Essence is ultimately more powerful. Williams wallows in sorrow and weakness, and the result is moving and disarming. --Marc Greilsamer

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Favorite Hymns

Favorite Hymns Lowest new price: $8.80
Lowest used price: $1.55
Brand: CD


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The Complete Studio Recordings Mississippi John Hurt

The Complete Studio Recordings Mississippi John Hurt Lowest new price: $19.98
Lowest used price: $7.99
Brand: CD
Model: 1978417

Vanguard captured the beauty and soul of this Delta bluesman to great effect on The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt, Today! and his last studio recording, Last Sessions . Those three LPs are all here, featuring Moaning the Blues; Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home; I'm Satisfied; Keep On Knocking; All Night Long , and more, with detailed notes.

Gentle, graceful, subtle, sweet--these aren't descriptions generally applied to the blues, but they offer a sense of Mississippi John Hurt's uniqueness and enduring legacy. Rediscovered during the 1960s folk boom after last recording in the late 1920s, Hurt cut the three albums compiled here when he was in his early 70s. His conversational phrasing sounds as natural as breathing, while his ragtime-tinged fingerpicking on acoustic guitar reveals more complexity the closer you listen. Beyond blues classics like "Candy Man" (the sly sensualist wasn't referring to lollipops), Hurt's range encompasses everything from folkish narratives ("Talking Casey," "Spike Driver Blues") to Southern spirituals ("Nearer My God to Thee," "Farther Along"). Though Hurt died in 1966, shortly after the last of these sessions, the music still sounds so fresh, you can almost hear the twinkle in his eye. --Don McLeese

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Señor Blues

Señor Blues Lowest new price: $4.76
Lowest used price: $3.75
Model: 30604909


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The Complete Library of Congress Sessions, 1941-1942

The Complete Library of Congress Sessions, 1941-1942 Lowest new price: $12.29
Lowest used price: $9.99
Brand: Travelin' Man

This classic re-release of an item deleted in 1997 features 19 blues recordings from Mississippi Delta bluesman Son House recorded in 1941-42. He's on guitar & vocals, joined by Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin & Leory Williams. A portion of this was recorded at Klack's Store, Lake Cormorant, Mississippi. You'll hear occasional railway noises in the background, as the store, which had the electricity necessary for the recording, was close to a branch-line between the lake & Robinsonville, which is where the remaining titles were recorded.


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Diamond Days

Diamond Days Lowest new price: $6.48
Lowest used price: $1.92
Model: 2023808

Time and again over the past three decades and beyond, Bibb has demonstrated his ability to not only capture those singular moments when the spiritual and the everyday come together, but also extract the priceless nuggets of truth and wisdom that emerge from those moments. Diamond Days is filled with just such gems.

The twelve-song set leads off with "Tall Cotton," a track whose title was inspired by a guitar maker friend in Canada, says Bibb. "As I was walking out the door of her studio, she said, `Man, you're walking in tall cotton,'" he recalls. "I said, `What?' She said, `My mother used to tell me that. It means you're doing fine. You're on top of your game.' So the expression eventually turned into a song." The track features Congolese guitarist Kahanga "Master Vumbi" Dekula, who plays in a distinctly African style. "For me," says Bibb, "to talk about tall cotton, which is a very southern American expression, and to connect it to African culture is musically, historically and personally very resonant."

Further in, "Story Book Hero" is a tongue-in-cheek tune reminiscent of the romantic ballads of the 1930s, when male singers would brag to the ladies about their masculine charms. "Smooth talkin' playboys may try an' get your number," Bibb sings, "but I wanna show you how good a man can be, I long to deliver your every heart's desire, Darlin' you're my destiny." The song closes with the singer rattling off names like Robin Hood, John Henry and other folk heroes who emerged from the collective consciousness of past generations to embolden the downtrodden. "It's intended as a spirit-over-circumstances kind of song," says Bibb, "but in a lighthearted way."

"Heading Home" is a song that Bibb considers very autobiographical. "My roots are really in American folk music in all of its glorious forms - from Southern blues and gospel to mountain music, bluegrass and country - and later on, the folk singers of the `50s and `60s who gathered all of that together and made their own statements," says the New York native, who has lived in various parts of Europe and the UK since the early 1970s. "The song is about being disillusioned in the late `60s," he says. "It's about finding a way to gather up those wonderful threads that made us so optimistic at that time, and try to bring it back home."

Bibb ratchets up the energy to a near rapturous pitch in a live rendition of "In My Father's House," a driving, spiritually charged profession of brotherhood that's reminiscent of the soul classic "People Get Ready." On a more intimate scale is the earthy "Buckets of Rain," a song originally penned by Bob Dylan and delivered here in a cheery midtempo arrangement featuring guitarist Martin Simpson's intricate fingerpicking.

The closer, "Still Livin' On," is Bibb's nod to past masters and musical influences - Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotten, Pops Staples and other heroes of blues and gospel whose spirit and influence still lives in their music.

On the good days as well as the bad, Bibb continues to channel these resonant voices from long ago and make them an integral part of his own music and world view. The lesson in Diamond Days is that the road of life is filled with peaks and valleys, and Bibb's sage advice is to accept it all with courage and grace.

Calm, cool, and collected, folksinger Eric Bibb approaches his craft in a style similar to that of Keb' Mo'. His honeyed voice and clean acoustic guitar wrap around songs like a flannel blanket. Bibb's music is filled with hope and uplifting sentiments without being spiritually pedantic. "Forgiveness Is Gold" and "So Glad" tell their stories in the titles alone. Even the lowly shoeshine man can approach his job and life with exuberance ("Dr. Shine") as he helps others improve their lives in his own small way. While these feelings could be juvenile, or--worse--corny, in the wrong hands, Bibb's songwriting and presentation elevate the material with a persuasive professionalism and integrity achieved through a career that spans ten years and as many albums. Credit also goes to producer Glen Scott, who brings just enough changes to the mix. Occasional tuba, snare drum, muted trumpet, and his keyboards add deeper, richer shades to these smooth watercolor sketches. The disc's lone live track, "My Father's House," injects subtle rawness into the proceedings and is certainly a highlight. "Still Livin' On" name checks Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton, Rev. Gary Davis, Son House, and Pops Staples. It shows Bibb's dedication to, and love of, the folk/blues artists who have influenced and preceded him. The music and soul of these legends is imbedded in Bibb's own style that connects on this fine release despite--or maybe because--of its breezy, easygoing charm. --Hal Horowitz

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The Very Best Of John Lee Hooker

The Very Best Of John Lee Hooker Lowest new price: $5.91
Lowest used price: $1.31

Singer-guitarist John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was one of the most successful blues artists of the second half of the 20th century, yet his hypnotic brand of blues was in many ways a throwback to earlier times, before rules of rhyme, meter, and chord structure became standardized. The Clarksdale, Mississippi-born musician burst on the national scene with his first record, "Boogie Chillen,"

A million or so collections, all from different record labels, document this Detroit blues guitarist's influential boogie-woogie career. This 16-song Rhino CD is an excellent starting point, with definitive versions of Hooker's classics "Boom Boom," "Boogie Chillen'," "I'm in the Mood," and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer." It's interesting to hear the singer's voice progress from a deep, growling slur to the more polished later material, such as his collaboration with slide guitarist Roy Rogers on Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues," but he never lost his bottom-line rawness. --Steve Knopper

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Mississippi Blues

Mississippi Blues Lowest new price: $9.95
Lowest used price: $1.31
Brand: Putumayo


This well-chosen 11-track collection succeeds admirably in its attempt to represent the Mississippi, the river of blues. This deep, wide, multihued collection of blues combines an expansive chronological and stylistic sweep with a commendable attention to entertainment value through its emphasis on the unexpected. Bobby "Blue" Bland's awe-inspiring vocal on "St. James Infirmary," a masterpiece of American music, is an expected highlight, but selections like Ike and Tina Turner's 1969 take on the B.B. King standard "3 O'clock in the Morning" and the electrifying Luther Allison's "Part Time Love," a Motown gem from early in his career, provide satisfying surprises. Chris Thomas King's subtle but significant modernization of Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen," a performance both rootsy and progressive, is a perfect fit for the collection. Much of the music has a folksy feel, especially the work of Mississippi John Hurt, an acoustic purist until the end, who rolls through a back-to-the-basics "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," and that of voluntary European exile Memphis Slim, whose piano-powered "Stewball" features the legendary Willie Dixon on bass. Other legends, including John Lee Hooker and Junior Wells, are well represented, but it's Memphis Minnie, a seminal guitar star of the 1930s, who steals the show with her empowered "I Got to Make a Change Blues." --Michael Point


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Heroes of the Blues - The Very Best of Reverend Gary Davis

Heroes of the Blues - The Very Best of Reverend Gary Davis Lowest new price: $5.61
Lowest used price: $3.72
Brand: CD
Model: 2190917

• Part of the Heroes of the Blues series • The only true cross-licensed best-of package for the Rev. Gary Davis • A complete complete career retrospective, covering all periods of his career and various record labels • Digitally re-mastered • Cover art by R. Crumb

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