Tag Archives: Takoma Records

365 Days of Album Recommendations – March 25

Bukka White – Mississippi Blues


It is essentially impossible to stress how important this record was and is to me. Virtually everything I understand about the country blues, and just about every little success I’ve achieved in my career, can likely be traced to something on this album.

Here is where I learned to sing. Here is where I learned to play. Here is where I learned to write. Here is where I learned what it was I wanted to be when I grew up.

I remember buying a vinyl edition; my first copy, and I still have it. I will always have it.

His version of Shake ‘Em On Down deeply, deeply informs the version I started playing some 30 years ago, and still play to this day. It’s on my 2016 album “The Country Blues.” My version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” which is wholly and totally dependent on Bukka White for it’s style and sound, is on “The National Blues,” also from 2016. The point being, these Bukka White recordings have been shaping my life for three decades now, and show no signs of stopping.

Q: How powerful does music need to be, to completely change a man’s life?
A: This powerful.

These recordings were made almost immediately upon Bukka White’s “rediscovery” in the 60s, for John Fahey’s crucial and seminal Takoma label.

I’ve said it with regards to many other country blues legends as well, but for a confluence of reasons, I find that often, these first “re-emergence” recordings are often the strongest of a country blues artist’s whole career. I think this can be said not just about Bukka White here, but also about Son House, Skip James, and Mississippi John Hurt.

Please, please do yourself a favor, and if you haven’t yet done so, find these recordings, and give yourself over to them. They will change you.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Jan 5

Robert Pete Williams – Louisiana Blues


John Fahey’s short-lived but justifiably legendary record label Takoma produced a number of very significant releases—two of which are two of the most incredible albums I’ve ever heard in my life. One of these albums—which I’ll profile at a later date—was by Bukka White. The other is this one.

In the entire history of country blues music, there has never been an artist who is at once so spooky, and so funky. Robert Pete Williams might well be from another planet, so utterly singular is his sound.

His voice is beyond imagining. What words can you use to describe it? Wild? Howling? Primitive? Raw? Primal? Impassioned? Otherworldly? They all apply, and they all fall short.

He was serving time in Angola (the Louisiana State Penitentiary) when he was “discovered” in 1956. His music led to his being pardoned in 1958. In 1964, he played the Newport Folk Festival. The songs that comprise this album were recorded in 1966, 8 years out from having been incarcerated in what Collier’s magazine in 1952 called “the worst prison in America.”

There are very few country blues artists whose every musical contribution stands out for its singularity. Robert Pete Williams was just such an artist. His guitar sound and style; unmatchable, and instantly recognizable. His voice, possessed.

All this would be more than enough. But then there are the lyrics. What can we do but bow to the power of the artist who gives us these words:

Mama, why I got to be so ugly in this world?
Son, that’s just a mark that God put on your face.

Recommended track to start with: “Somebody Help Poor Me.” Track #1. Followed by the rest of them.

NEW! Live video from the Preacher Boy & Big Bones Special Reunion Show at Biscuits & Blues!

Brand-new footage of Preacher Boy & Big Bones, with Zack Olsen on drums, performing “Shake ‘Em On Down” live at Biscuits & Blues, December 8th, 2014!

I first heard Bukka White perform this song on a vinyl album from the Takoma label, and it literally changed my life. That was when I was probably 16, maybe 17 years old, and probably 4, maybe 5 of those songs have been in just about every set I’ve ever played since. Shake ‘Em On Down, Poor Boy Long Ways From Home, Fixin To Die, Baby Please Don’t Go, Aberdeen Mississippi Blues, etc.  The point being, I’ve been playing Shake ‘Em On Down, for a LONG time … and I still love it. I LOVE to play this song …

For you guitar heads, it’s a pretty straightforward I-V-V progression, with a couple of arrangement twists. The National is tuned to Open D, and most of the action is actually on the low end, designed to mimic (albeit with a different rhythm) Bukka White’s original descending bass line …

The lyric is straight up raw blues poetry; sexy as hell:

She got somethin, I don’t know what it is
But it sure make me drunker than any ol’ whiskey still …

Bones takes an awesome approach with his harmonica on this version, opting to largely play a minor vibe, which ties to the main riff cleanly,  but then darkens up the IV and V which, on the National, are major. Killer manipulation of the abstract flatted third …

Anyhow, check it out, hope you enjoy!

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