Tidewater Blues / Various


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    Tidewater Blues / Various Smithsonian Institution

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Review Text Another in the Virginia Traditions series assembled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, Tidewater Blues combines commercially released 78s from the 1920s with field recordings done in the 1940s, '50s and '70s to provide a historical sketch of blues in the region. Often called Piedmont or East Coast blues (there are those who would split hairs and make each a distinct school), tidewater blues is generally more intricate and delicate than the Delta or Texas strains of the genre, and draws more heavily on piano rags as well as the black string band tradition and features a gentle, melodic and easy rolling feel. Among the highlights here are two gentle and perfectly nuanced blues songs by guitarist Carl Hodges, "Leaving You Mama" and "Poor Boy Blues," recorded by folklorist Kip Lornell in 1979, and Pernell Charity's accomplished guitar instrumental, "Barbershop Rag," recorded in 1928. The Virginia Four's unaccompanied "I'd Feel Much Better," from 1939, isn't so much blues as secular black gospel, as is "Pleading Blues," sung by the Monarch Jazz Quartet and drawn from a 1929 recording. Tidewater Blues ends up being a gentle, soothing portrait of blues (and blues-based forms) from the coastal region of Virginia, and makes a fine complement to another volume in the Virginia Traditions series, Western Piedmont Blues, which places its focus further inland. ~ Steve Leggett

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