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Monday, April 10, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: Vol. 3 (1945-1949)

CHAMPION JACK DUPREE: VOL. 3: 1945-1949 (2009)

1) You've Been Drunk; 2) Santa Claus Blues; 3) Gin Mill Sal; 4) Let's Have A Ball; 5) Going Down Slow; 6) Hard Feeling; 7) How Long, How Long Blues; 8) Mean Old Frisco; 9) I Think You Need A Shot; 10) Bad Whiskey And Wild Woman; 11) Bus Station Blues; 12) Love Strike Blues; 13) Wet Deck Mama; 14) Big Legged Mama; 15) I'm A Doctor For Women; 16) Cecelia, Cecelia; 17) Going Down To The Bottom; 18) Fifth Avenue Blues; 19) Highway 31; 20) Come Back Baby; 21) Chitlins And Rice; 22) One Sweet Letter; 23) Lonesome Bedroom Blues; 24) Old Woman Blues; 25) Mean Mistreatin' Mama; 26) Featherweight Mama; 27) Day Break.

Nothing much happening on this particular volume, either, except that, after the first three tracks, the Champion is consistently accompanied on guitar by Brownie McGhee — sometimes as part of a trio, sometimes in a slightly larger band: a special landmark is ʽCecelia, Ceceliaʼ (sic!), where, for the first time ever, Dupree uses an ensemble of backing vocalists, a full rhythm section and a guest sax player. Reason? Well, the song itself is nothing but a lyrical rewrite of ʽCaldoniaʼ, recorded one year earlier by Louis Jordan, and, evidently, this was Dupree's first stab at imitating the big band jump blues approach of Jordan, which was quickly gaining ground as a replacement for the antiquated urban blues stylistics.

In fact, the liner notes do state that Dupree was finding life in New York particularly hard in the late 1940s, what with public interest moving away from strict blues (for which Chicago was becoming the main playground) and into the sphere of something more boogie-danceable. Never­theless, the stubborn artist ploughed on, reluctant to move out of his favorite city, and even found occasional opportunities to make recordings, usually on small local labels. The «big band» stint with ʽCeceliaʼ was actually good for about four tracks — after that, it is back to small scale once again, with the same batch of similar-sounding blues and boogie tunes as always.

That said, some of these duets between Jack and Brownie rise notably above the average level: see ʽBad Whiskey And Wild Womanʼ (sic!), a reflection on the subject of "by the year 1963, I wonder what will become of me?" with Brownie echoing the singer's dark forebodings with some suitably grumbly lead lines in between some verse lines and allaying his worst fears with lighter, gentler, ripplier lines in between others — and also pushing Dupree as a pianist to try his best with a flourish-laden solo that seems to show off more than his standard technique. You do have to make an effort to sort them out from the chaff, though: much more often, it's just Jack boxing the keys over and over, concentrating on his verbal innuendos (ʽWet Deck Mamaʼ, ʽBig Legged Mamaʼ — the latter would soon turn into ʽBig Leg Emmaʼ and stay that way forever) rather than on varying his playing style, because nobody was buying his records anyway, so why bother?

The most unusual track on this volume is the last one — a moody slow blues entitled ʽDaybreakʼ, with Brownie playing a strangely distorted electric guitar and then, very soon, yielding the spot­light to the anonymous bass player, who plays a catchy, fluent, and, most importantly, loud jazzy melody, as if he were Willie Dixon or something. The weirdest thing is that we seem to know the names of the bass players for all the previous sessions (Count Edmondson first, and then Cedric Wallace of Fats Waller's fame), but not for this particular one. It's probably That Perfect Bass Player Who Came From Heaven, and then went back again after laying down this one perfect bass track. What made him descend upon Champion Jack Dupree, of all people, remains a mystery — just one more odd chapter in the already befuddling life story of this guy.

1 comment:

  1. That Daybreak is pretty cool, and sounds like it could have been recorded by the New Yardbirds. Or the Old Fleetwood Mac. Brother Blues & the Back Room Boys featuring T.B. Player.