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Various Artists - The Roots Of Rockabilly 1940-1953: Rompin’ And Stompin’ album review(originally from the Plan B Magazine website)

Various Artists - The Roots Of Rockabilly
1940-1953: Rompin’ And Stompin’ 
(originally from the Plan B Magazine website)

Hardrockin Gunter 

 This 3-CD set of country, blues, gospel and bluegrass from the years that formed the musical mindset of most of those who’d create rock’n’roll has swallowed up a month in my life. Not just because, from a musicologist angle, it provides a fascinating link between the impoverishment of the war years through the explosion in indie labels and electronic instrumentation post-war through to the genesis of rock’n’roll. Not just because you find that country blues actually already explored all kinds of later musical trends in the Forties (including, unbelievably dub as on the mindblowing echoplexed madness of the Davis Sisters’ ‘Rock A Bye Boogie’). No, The Roots Of Rockabilly slays still because I got a woman. And she done broke my heart. And these songs are pitiless. The human heart’s history is ancient and always the same and these motherfuckers, mainly skint, barely literate hicks, broke it down with remorseless honesty and consummate artistry. Songs that pierce you with their unmannered straight-talking accuracy. Love laid livid. And it’s tuneful with it. And brilliantly concise and clear and wonderful and nuts and innovative and depraved and blissfully innocent.

Maddox Bros & Rose 
The Carlisles

CD1 blows your head off: The Carlisle’s hysterically puerile ‘T’Aint Nice To Talk Like That’ and ‘Iz Zat You Myrtle’, the aforementioned Davis Sisters scarifying Pabloesque exploration, Chet Atkins ‘Oh By Jingo’ (an influence on ‘Bewlay Brothers’ perchance?), the wonderfully named Hardrock Gunter’s ‘Perfect Woman’ (“built like a coca-cola bottle with the eyes of a whale”), Maddox Bros & Rose’s yodelling proto-Danielson ‘New Mule Skinner Blues’. And that’s just 6 tracks out of 25. CD1 is pretty much a dazzling primer in the weird avenues and diamond-tight corners country blues/western swing/ hillbilly was revving around after the war, signposts to Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones and everyone else already firmly planted and ready to blow.

Moon Mullican 
CD2 takes the journey further. The explicit connection rockabilly formulated ‘tween C&W and blues (and jazz & boogie-woogie & gospel) is made plain by big stomping stormers from mean-sounding badasses like Hank Penny, Jimmy Murphy, Jack Cardwell and Moon Mullican (who’s ‘Pipeliner Blues’ is as risqué as you care to make it). Lee Bell’s ‘Beatin’ Out The Boogie (On The Mississippi Mud)’ could be seen as a definition of rock’n’roll. Even tracks as ancient as The Hot Lips Page Trio’s ‘Thirsty Mama Blues’ seem to throb with an inner wail and hunger for both musical and personal extremity that rock’n’roll was lucky enough to pretend it patented nearly two decades on. His woman’s an alcoholic, he wishes she’d left him on the shelf so he could ”have that liquor for myself” – tell me that ain’t still painfully accurate.

Hot Lips Page

Elmore James
Dig the depths of CD3 as well: a flawless collection of post-Delta/pre-r’n’b blues from Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson and others that makes the most perfect suite of late night misery songs I’ve ever heard. Baby Face Leroy’s ‘Red Headed Woman’ would tear Jon Spencer a new asshole to go with that one he talks out of.

Baby Face Leroy

Throughout all this music, mostly recorded by itinerant travelling performers on a shoestring and put out by tiny labels for specialised local markets, what you hear isn’t just some of the finest songwriting and playing imaginable. You also hear people proud and pleased to be given the chance to record their music and responding in kind, lashing down the truth in an average of three minutes and sounding like they were having as good a time making it as you are cutting a rug to it. Next time you hear some fucking band whingeing about album ‘pressure’, point them towards this joyful conciseness, this fearless honesty, this masterful, mesmerising collection of characters and their art. Even if your inclination is against paying your dues, we owe these people fuckloads and we might actually learn something about what to demand from music and musicians that’s still wholly relevant today. Thank you Jesus.

Buy it here.


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