Originally recorded in 1957, these sessions turned out to be the last the legendary Big Bill Broonzy would record; only a little over a year later, he succumbed to lung cancer. This collection consists not of fan or producer favorites, but Broonzy favorites, and includes a variety of blues, folk, and devotional music. Though he was instrumental to the development of the blues and the Chicago sound, much of the material on this three-disc set reaches back to the music that the blues came from, with a lot of drop-in help from Broonzy's friends, of which there were many. That makes these recordings not only recordings, but documentation, a testament to a bluesman who was at once musician and historian.
Blasters founders Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had a famously combative relationship over the years, but as Dave once said, "We argue sometimes, but we never argue about Big Bill Broonzy." So it's fitting that their love of Big Bill brings them together in the recording studio for their first album together since the Blasters' Hard Line in 1985. Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play & Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy features the Alvin Brothers performing a dozen songs from the Broonzy songbook, and while listening to this is a potent reminder of how good Broonzy's songs still sound in the 21st century, it also demonstrates the complementary talents of Dave and Phil Alvin.
First up is Big Bill Broonzy pulling out all the stops for a smokey bistro set in '56 and '57, followed by a Roosevelt Sykes studio session from '61. Songs include The Honeydripper; Night Time Is the Right Time; Sweet Old Chicago; House Rent Stomp; Saturday Night Blues; Guitar Shuffle, and more.
Big Bill Broonzy’s recording career spanned from 1927 until his death in 1958. His repertoire was well recorded, from solo to duets to ensemble playing. He was rediscovered just as the "folk-revival" began in the early 1950s. Big Bill was a master of ragtime and country blues guitar. His playing was highlighted by a strong pulsating bass and melodic lead lines. Woody Mann carefully explains Big Bill’s techniques and style in this video lesson.
Although Chess didn't bother to anthologize these sides into album form until the early '60s, this marvelous collection actually dates from 1953. Broonzy and Sam are both in great form here, sharing the vocals throughout and recalling their earlier days as Bluebird label and session mates. The sound is fleshed out by the addition of guitarist Lee Cooper (who at times almost sounds a bit too modern for the genre being explored here, throwing in what can only be described as Chuck Berry licks) and Big Crawford on upright bass.