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HOUSTON MIGHT BE HEAVEN - ROCKIN' R&B IN TEXAS 1947-1951 (4CD Box Set)

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JSP (JSP7785)

Little Willie Littlefield, Blip Thomkins, Lavarda Durst, LC Williams, Carl Campbell, Little T-Bone, Clarence Garlow, Conrad Johnson, Willie Holiday, Joe Houston, Robert Smith, Peppermint Harris, Lonnie Lyons Combo, Joe Papoose Fritz, Clarence Samuels, Bill Hayes, Lee Graves, Big Mama Thornton, Violet Hall, Willie Johnson, Lee Graves, Elmore Nixon, Smokey Hogg, John Hogg, Hubert Robinson, IH Smalley.

Connoisseurs get ready to rock. Here's a host of hard boppin' R&B and cool electric guitar blues from Texas issued during the golden era of R&B on obscure labels like Eddie's, Uptown, Freedom, Independent and E&W along side those that had wider distribution like Sittin' In With, Macy's, Gold Star, Peacock and Mercury.

Two of the four CDs are dedicated to musicians who came from opposite ends of the Texas blues: Smokey Hogg and Peppermint Harris. Smoky Hogg gets a full CD of 26 tracks. The first two feature his slightly unsettling piano style backed by guitarist Frankie Lee Sims and the rest are from his group sessions when he played idiosyncratic country blues guitar backed up by Willie Johnson on piano, Joe Fritz on tenor sax and Goree Carter on guitar. Peppermint Harris also gets his own CD full of well thought out hard blues material ranging from the slow, mournful blues ballads like Texarkana Bound and the rockin' guitar and piano boogies like Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie to the easy rolling melodic numbers such as Sweet Happy Home and Fat Girl Boogie with its frantic honky tonk feel. These tracks were all recorded between 1950 and 1952 with the same group of musicians that included the adventurous piano player Willie Johnson, the rasping sax player Ed Wiley and guitarist Goree Carter.

The rest of the box set contains a lucky dip of big names, one hit wonders and relatively unknown musicians like Carl Campbell who gets the joint rockin' with the all out blast of Oo Wee Baby when he lets Joe Houston loose on the blasting sax solo, and Clarence Garlow who slams in with some truly dynamic licks in his raunchy instrumental In A Boogie Mood. Little T-Bone really goes to town throwing every lick his mentor invented on Love's A Gamble and then Big Mama Thornton sneaks in with the deep blues that was her debut recording, Bad Luck Got My Man. If you fancy a bit of high energy boogie woogie, you won't do better than Little Willie Littlefield's blistering Swanee River and if you want some buzzsaw guitar, Goree Carter obliges on Bill Hayes swinging My Baby Loves Me So. This track also features the lowdown ramblings of blues piano legend Buster Pickens.

The whole CD is a treasure trove of great blues and R&B from the Lone Star State - JSP and compiler Neil Slaven have done us proud again.

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Review Date: April 2011

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