May 28, 2024

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CD review: Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 9 – Jack of Diamonds – 2023: Video, CD cover

This is Set 9 of the old Matchbox Bluesmaster Series. These six CDs (taken from 6 LPs) of the Library of Congress Series were originally released during the 1970s as part of a joint venture between Flyright Records and Saydisc Records.

The recordings were made in the field between 1934 and 1943 on portable 78rpm lacquer disc cutting machines and then sat for about 30 years in the Library of Congress before being issued on LP in the 1970s.

Many of the fragile records deteriorated and the music recorded on those discs is an attempt to preserve that music. They are preserving the history of the blues for posterity.

Some of the performances are marvelous and come from unknown and previously unrecorded artists; some these musicians were in state penitentiary farms; those are captured on discs 5 and 6.

Disc 1 is Mississippi River Blues, recorded in Natchez. Artists here are Lucious Curtis (guitar), Willie Ford (guitar), John Lomax (narration) and George Boldwin. There are lots of great fingerpicking blues on this disc and it exemplifies Delta blues of the era.

Disc number 2 is Fort Valley Blues and was done in Georgia. Allison Mathis, Jessie Stroller (harmonica), Buster “Buzz” Ezell, Buster Brown, Gus Gibson, Charles Ellis, Sonny Chestain, James Sneed, J.F. Duffy (guitar), and Alvin Sanders (guitar) appear on this CD. The sound here is more of the Piedmont style of blues with a distinct folky feel. We get some piano and harp added here and there, too, and the tempos are generally a little more upbeat.

The third CD is Out in the Cold Again, recorded in Florida as was the next CD. Gabriel Brown (guitar), Rochelle French (guitar), and John French are captured here. The style is a little different than the Piedmont, with perhaps some stylistic resemblance to Delta blues mixed in.

Volume 4 is Boot That Thing. The musicians on this volume are Booker T. Sapps, Roger Matthews, and Willy Flowers. More Florida Blues are presented here. Lots of hot harp work here, and much closer to the folky Piedmont style than the prior disc. Hot tempos and more danceable tunes appear here.

The fifth Volume is Two White Horses Standin’ In Line and was it recorded in Texas. Here we have Ace Johnson, L.W. Gooden (guitar), Jesse Lockett, Smith Casey, Roger Gill, Wallace Chains, Sylvester Jones (guitar), Richard L. Lewis, Wilbert Gilliam (guitar), Hattie Ellis, and “Cowboy” Jack Ramsey (guitar). The Texas style of blues is quite evident here, with a little swing, harp and guitar done at times vibrantly. There are some tunes that hearken to work songs, too, similar to what Leadbelly did.

The sixth CD is Jack O’ Diamonds. Also recorded in Texas, this volume is Pete Harris, Tricky Sam, Augustus “Track Horse” Haggerty, Jack Johnson, Little Brother, A. Haggerty and John Lomax doing some narration. There is more upbeat and interesting Texas blues here, especially the latter half of the disc.

With now nine releases, there are 54 CDs in the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series that recapture the blues and roots music from their earliest recordings. Saydisc and the folks at Bluesmaster have created a great archival set of music for fans and collectors to assemble and listen to!

Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 9 – Jack of Diamonds | Album Review – Blues  Blast Magazine

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