Saturday, November 21, 2009
V.A. Angola Prisoner's Blues
“Blues doesn't get more authentic than this.... Odea Mathews echoes Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey in a surprisingly delicate voice while her sewing machine keeps time. Thelma Mae Joseph brings a bleak, desolate quality to her warbling of the pop tune 'Since I Fell for You'äwhile the prison laundry machines rumble away behind her. But the star of the stunning set is unquestionably murderer Robert Pete WilliamsäThis disc starts with his 'Prisoner's Talking Blues,' a rambling rumination on the state of his health and the deprivation of his family. Williams lightly strums Oster's guitar under this grim, unself-conscious monologue, climaxed by his breaking into sullen song: 'Sometimes I feel like committing suicide.'”
By Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle.
Not enough great things to say about this one, one of the finest field recordings ever done anywhere. If Robert Pete's "Prisoner's Talking Blues" doesn't move you, check your heart into your refrigerator's freezer section.
By Cub Koda, All Music Guide.
In the '50s, Harry Oster made several recordings of African-American inmates at the penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. These sessions are primarily remembered for the discovery of Robert Pete Williams, but Oster also found several other acoustic blues performers of merit. Several of them are featured on this 20-track, 80-minute CD (which includes three tracks by Williams). Although these singers had hard daily lives and went through hard times before they were jailed, this is hardly a downer record. It's largely first-class acoustic blues with a relaxed (if sometimes sad) dignity. The lyrics are sometimes related to prison life, as in Robert Pete Williams' minor-keyed "Prisoner's Talking Blues" and Guitar Welch's "Electric Chair Blues." Yet much of the material is simply the usual songs of struggle and hope common to the blues, mixed in with some a cappella, spiritual-flavored cuts by female prisoners, and one male vocal group performance clearly derived from doo wop. Guitar blues is the predominant style, though, and country-blues fans will find much to enjoy here, whether they're interested in the folklore aspect or not. Thirteen of the tracks on the CD version were previously unreleased.
By Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide.
Robert Pete Williams- Guitar,Guitar 12 String,Vocals
Otis Webster- Guitar,Vocals
Thelma Mae Joseph- Vocals
Hogman Maxey- Guitar,Guitar 12 String,Vocals
Guitar Welch- Guitar,Vocals
Clara Young- Vocals
Odea Mathews- Vocals
01. Prisoner's Talking Blues - Robert Pete Williams 5:12
02. Stagolee - Hogman Maxey 3:42
03. Electric Chair Blues - Guitar Welch 5:19
04. Black Night Is Fallin' - Hogman Maxey 4:32
05. Some Got Six Months - Robert Pete Williams 3:46
06. I'm Gonna Leave You Mama - Guitar Welch 2:50
07. I'm Lonesome Blues - Robert Pete Williams 4:01
08. Angola Bound - A Capella Group 5:50
09. Worried Blues - Hogman Maxey 4:16
10. Josephine - Guitar Welch 5:12
11. Soldier's Plea - Clara Young 2:47
12. The Moon Is Rising - Odea Mathews 1:58
13. I'm Still In Love With You - Thelma Mae Joseph 1:44
14. I Miss You So - Vocal Group 3:31
15. Hello, Sue - Butterbeans 0:59
16. Fast Life Woman - Hogman Maxey 4:07
17. Careless Love - Otis Webster 2:32
18. Have You Ever Heard The Church Bells Tone - Roosevelt Charles/Otis Webster 2:38
19. 61 Highway - Guitar Welch 4:24
20. Strike At Camp I - Roosevelt Charles 9:31