On this excellent release from the World Music Network's ever-reliable Rough Guide series, a host of unknown early blues artists get their due. While Robert Johnson, Son House, and a handful of other greats from the 1920s and '30s have become widely recognized icons of the pre-war blues era, so many lesser-known, though no less talented, players have slipped through the cracks. Opening with Henry Thomas' spirited "Fishing Blues" (complete with a pan flute solo), The Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues winds its way through a series of wonderful and obscure country-blues gems.
From the extraordinary recordings of the true guitar evangelists Blind Willie Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis to classic spiritual renditions by legendary bluesmen Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Skip James, this handpicked selection highlights the mutual influence between Gospel and blues.
From the 19th century African music gatherings in Congo Square to the birth of jazz and its offshoots, New Orleans is one of America's most important music cities, and with the Rough Guide to the Music of New Orleans collection, listeners get a well-rounded taste of the Crescent City's musical gumbo. The collection touches on traditional jazz torchbearers (Dr. Michael White), classic R&B (Jessie Hill, Earl King), down-home funk (the Meters), Mardi Gras-ready brass players (Kermit Ruffins, Hot 8 Brass Band), global-influenced groovers (Los Hombres Calientes), and artists on the rise (Papa Grows Funk). While it's impossible to capture the full spectrum of New Orleans music on a single disc – women artists are underrepresented, and the NOLA hip-hop scene that's emerged since the 1990s is skipped entirely – this Rough Guide is a spirited introduction, and as a bonus is accompanied by a second disc featuring emerging heavy funk purveyors Dumpstaphunk.