365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 26

Kokomo Arnold – Restored & Remastered Hits


As with a great many early blues recordings from canonical artists, there are now many different ways to get your Kokomo Arnold. Different compilations, different record labels, new remasters, etc. I spend a fair amount of time listening through different versions of collections like these, trying to find the ones I think offer the best combination of quality and “naturalness”—what I mean by naturalness in this case is, I prefer NOT to hear the heavy hand of the remaster.  If I have to choose, I’ll take the “original” scratchiness over absurd amounts of filtering and manipulation.

This is why it was such a pleasant surprise to stumble on this collection of Kokomo Arnold recordings. I know nothing about the label other than that they’re based out of Italy, and that they’ve done a similar treatment with Cab Calloway’s music. But what I can tell you is that the sound quality here is really fine; warm, natural, clear, and you can REALLY hear what Mr. Arnold is gettin’ up to w/ that slide.

Kokomo Arnold’s influence is unmistakable, and probably fairly widely acknowledged at this point, given that two of Robert Johnson’s most well-known recordings—Sweet Home Chicago and Milkcow’s Calf Blues—are clearly swiped nearly wholesale from Mr. Arnold. Not to mention that Elvis did him some Kokomo as well!

Unlike many still-living early-era blues players sought out by enthusiasts in the 60s, Kokomo Arnold didn’t take up the offer to return to music, so all we have are his earlier recordings, but honestly, that’s more than enough to enshrine the man in hallowed halls.

His commanding voice, both urgent and powerful, had a moxie all its own, and his effortlessly clear and cutting falsetto is remarkable. His sense of melody was virtually flawless as well, which helped make so many of his compositions so timeless. But it’s his guitar playing that really raises the bar. Take a listen to The Twelves (Dirty Dozens) if you want to hear a flat-out clinic on how to play acoustic slide guitar. It’s just lethal.

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