1951 1952


aec.clrb5094.2 7/20/04 New

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    1951 1952 Jazz Classics

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Review Text If legend grows out of mystery, then Rice Miller could be its poster boy, since even his name is an uncertainty (he was most likely born as Alec or Alex Miller), and given that he assumed the name of another harmonica player, thus becoming the second Sonny Boy Williamson, he seemed to approach life like it was a hall of mirrors. What keeps him from being a completely self-invented illusion is that he was a remarkable musician, and the music he recorded is as solid as bedrock, an impressive counterweight to the vague and watery details that pass for his personal biography. Like the first Williamson, he was a harmonica player, but he really sounded nothing like his adopted namesake, favoring a light, soaring, almost horn-like sound on the instrument. He was also a natural songwriter, and his blues-based compositions show a sharp attention to detail unusual in a genre built largely on cliché and a handful of repeated patterns. This collection brings together his first recordings, done for Trumpet Records, a tiny Mississippi label that issued Williamson's sides from 1951 until 1955, at which time his contract was bought out by Chicago's Chess Records, who then began issuing his sides on the Checker imprint. From the first track here, the sparse and urgent "Eyesight to the Blind," it is obvious that Williamson was something special, with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, and song after song here exhibits a rough and wild joy, walking the blues side of the street with a loose-limbed swagger. Particularly striking is "Mighty Long Time," a duet of sorts featuring Williamson on vocals and harmonica, and Cliff Givens of the Southern Sons Gospel Quartet on vocal bass. Givens' sung bassline gives the tune an odd, eerie, and atmospheric edge, and it is simply a remarkable recording. The great slide guitarist Elmore James also shows up on several cuts, including the delightfully realized "Pontiac Blues." Williamson's later Checker sides were better recorded, but the ramshackle skill at work on these Trumpet recordings really shouldn't be missed. He may have been an enigma with an unverifiable past and an ever-shifting public identity, but Rice Miller knew what to do in front of a microphone. There's no mystery about that. ~ Steve Leggett

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Eyesight to the Blind - 3:04
  2. 2. Crazy About You Baby - 3:04
  3. 3. Stop Crying - 3:56
  4. 4. Do It If You Wanna - 3:32
  5. 5. Cool, Cool Blues - 3:45
  6. 6. Come on Back Home - 3:47
  7. 7. I Cross My Heart - 3:45
  8. 8. West Memphis Blues - 3:51
  9. 9. Sonny Boy's Christmas Blues - 3:38
  10. 10. Pontiac Blues - 3:44
  11. 11. Mighty Long Time - 3:59
  12. 12. Nine Below Zero - 3:52
  13. 13. She Brought Life Back to the Dead - 3:31
  14. 14. Too Close Together - 3:36
  15. 15. Stop Now Baby - 3:44
  16. 16. Mr. Down Child - 3:31
  17. 17. Cat Hop - 3:57
  18. 18. She's Crazy - 3:48
  19. 19. 309 - 3:44
  20. 20. Sonny's Rhythm - 2:21
  21. 21. City of New Orleans - 2:28

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