The sound of sophistication
Reviewed October 2006
Amsterdam Live Concerts 1953
By Bill Bill Broonzy
Munich Records: 2006
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
With just an acoustic guitar and his vocal cords, late blues pioneer Big Bill Broonzy is often categorized as a rural blues musician. Truth is, he was from the Mississippi Delta; sang a ton of traditional spirituals and blues, too.
But what that description of Broonzy misses is how very sophisticated his talent was. During a thirty-year career, Broonzy performed with everyone from Benny Goodman to Louis Armstrong to most of the blues greats of his age.
On a newly issued two-disc set recorded in 1953 in the Netherlands, Broonzy is back in his original element: sitting in front of an appreciative audience with just his guitar and that powerful, gorgeous singing voice of his.
Recorded just a few years before his death from cancer, this collection finds Broonzy in full artistic blossom: confident, in control, gregarious. He talks between songs, explaining them to the audience, or just introducing them.
But mostly he plays and sings blues chestnuts like "John Henry" and "Trouble in Mind" and "Down by the Riverside," but also pop nuggets like "Good Night Irene" (albeit written by Broonzy contemporary Leadbelly) and "Glory of Love" and some of his own songs, too, like "Just a Dream."
And while most live recordings excise much of the inter-song patter in the interests of radio-friendly song-oriented tracks, having Broonzy's conversations with the audience add to the "concert" feeling of this set.
The information booklet is informative and nicely illustrated, the sound quality remarkably clean. Given Broonzy's crucial role in the development of the blues, this album will quickly find its place as a must-have part of his recorded output.
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).