The Best Of The Blues - 6 CD Collection. Presenting… Big Bill Broonzy - stamped Arkansas country blues onto Chicago's urban style. Presenting… T-Bone Walker - blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, he had a profound effect on blues guitar. Presenting… Josh White - working as 'eyes' for visually challenged street singers led him to great success. Presenting… Robert Johnson - he died before his recordings brought him fame, and classed him as one of 'The Greats'. Presenting… Bessie Smith - one of the all time great stars of the gramophone record with her big, beautiful voice. Presenting… Dinah Shore - A long and successful career punctuated with numerous TV shows and awards.
Ella Fitzgerald was never thought of as a blues singer but she does a surprisingly effective job on the ten blues songs here, including "See See Rider," "Trouble in Mind," "St. Louis Blues," and Bessie Smith's "Jailhouse Blues." She somehow sings more or less in the style of the classic blues vocalists of the 1920s and largely pulls it off. Trumpeter Roy Eldridge, who has few solos and is low in the mix, is largely wasted, as organist Wild Bill Davis (with assistance from guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Gus Johnson) dominate the ensembles. It's an interesting set.
The box set attempts to present a history of the blues from the dawning of recorded music to the present day. It offers a survey of many different blues sub-genres and tangential music styles, as well as a survey of almost all the most notable blues performers over time. In 2004, the box set won two Grammy Awards for "Best Historical Album" and "Best Album Notes." That same year it was #2 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart.
Tab Benoit's funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice, has served him well since he burst on the scene in the early '90s. Since Benoit hasn't essentially changed his sound since, this collection of sides made up largely from his early releases for Houston-based Justice Records (all of Benoit's Justice albums have been reissued by Vanguard Records in recent years) makes an ideal introduction to what this guy is all about, and although Best of the Bayou Blues covers a five-year span from 1992 to 1997, the tracks all fall together in a completely coherent sequence. Opening with the Benoit original "Voodoo on the Bayou" from 1992's Nice & Warm and running through several originals and some interesting covers (including country-funk takes on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" and Willie Nelson's "Rainy Day Blues"), this set spotlights Benoit's southern Louisiana take on contemporary blues.