The George Mitchell Collection

October 27, 2009

51cfefKc93L._SS500_Why George Mitchell is not a household name in the field recording world is an enigma to me (or perhaps he is and I’ve been totally out of the loop). Alan Lomax seems to get all the credit, perhaps because Mitchell wasn’t as academic in his approach (which, arguably, might have been a good thing). I only discovered his incredibly affordable, beautifully recorded 7-disc box set, The George Mitchell Collection, after a friend of mine in the UK, Tony Bell of Brook’s Blues Bar, strongly urged me to pick up a copy. Needless to say that this box set is chock full of country blues gems recorded from the 60s to the 80s featuring some fairly big name pre-war recording artists like Buddy Moss, Sleepy John Estes, and Will Shade (of Memphis Jug Band fame), as well as a host of lesser known musicians. Some of the selections from the latter are so intense and so distinct that they likely had no chance in the mainstream blues world. In short, this set is a folk music collector’s dream!

To settle on one tune would be absurd, so I have picked three, the first by Buddy Moss whom Mitchell recorded in 1963. In my eyes Moss is one of the great unsung heroes of the country blues world. His music aged like a fine wine by the time the 60s rolled around, and yet by an odd twist of fate he is not up there on the list with Josh White, Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, etc. Here’s my feeble attempt to get him back up there. This song blew me away:

Hey Lawdy Mama – Buddy Moss

Check out this bowel-shaking percussive rendition of Buck Dance done by the Georgia Fife and Drum Band. There isn’t any fife in this tune, but there is a bevy of amazing fife-driven music to be heard in the collection.

Buck Dance – Georgia Fife and Drum Band

Lastly, here’s a spooky number from Jessie Lee Vortis (not much info to be had on him). Takes a little to get going, but it locks in to a steady, weird, pulsating groove after about a minute or so.

When My Baby Got On Board – Jessie Lee Vortis

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