BOOK  DEPARTMENT

 

THE DEVILS SON-IN-LAW : The Story Of Peetie Wheatstraw & His Songs by Paul Garon ● CD $14.95 Paper
(Counts as three CDs for shipping) Recommended. Long out-of-print and rather difficult to find, Paul Garon's newly-republished book is an easy, comfortable, and interesting spin through the rather short life of a popular and enthusiastic pre-war bluesman. While retaining its original flavor and lack of flair, The Devil's Son-In-Law doesn't
actually include much in the way of new or stunning facts on the life of William Bunch, also known as "The High Sheriff From Hell," but it does update the discography of the artist considerably. When first published in 1971, recording details covered five pages and listed all-known reissue products that included the work of Peetie Wheatstraw, perhaps 10 LP's. The updated version spans several more pages and  lists most known reissues in the intervening 30-plus years. In addition, Garon also enlisted the work of a number of surrealists to create new images of Peetie that are highly intriguing. In a completely new, yet short closing chapter, "So My Evil Spirit Won't Hang Around Your Door," Garon's sense of humor shows when he writes; "(Peetie) never announced his intention to become a minister in his declining years, although admittedly, his years declined rather suddenly at the end."
Wheatstraw died just hours after a car accident on his birthday, December 21, 1941. The book is available in either hardcover or paperback and each is accompanied by a 24-track CD that offers excellent listening while making your way through this interesting ride. The bonus is an unissued test of Harmon Ray's Xmas Blues. The expanded lyric transcriptions are another fine addition, and thankfully, the author steered clear of over-interpretation, something he should have considered when writing about Memphis Minnie a number of years ago. With the number of books
currently in print and easily available on blues, "The Devil's Son-In-Law"  focuses on one of the more important and curious figures from the 1930's. Well-done with informative passages on Peetie's running partners like Charley Jordan, Harmon Ray, Big Joe Williams, and more. (CR)

 

THE DEVILS SON-IN-LAW : The Story Of Peetie Wheatstraw & His Songs by Paul Garon ● CD $20.95 Hardbound
 (Counts as three CDs for shipping) See above.

 
ELMORE JAMES THE AMAZING SECRET HISTORY OF by Steve Franz ● CD $34.95
Counts as six CDs for shipping purposes. Originally a masters' thesis project, "The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James" combines research from 300 recordings and close to 500 articles, books, liner notes, newspaper clippings, interviews, and more. All told, nearly fifteen years of work were poured into what is now the finished product.
The first question that should arise is whether or not that lengthy period of time was well-invested. In a recent review of this book by a respected critic, Franz was taken to task for compiling over 300 pages that, in the end, offer very little in the way of newly uncovered information on the guitarist. That fact may present itself to blues scholars, but a far greater number will have little knowledge of outdated documents dating back to the 1960's. By collecting decades of research and articles on the artist, many unseen for years, the book succeeds at capturing the life of Elmore. His entire life is covered nicely, from his early years through the 1940's when he frequently worked with Sonny Boy Williamson II and other luminaries, as well as richly detailed passages on Chicago and trips back and forth from the South. Also touched upon are heart ailments that eventually took his life, plus his relationships with band members and record producers.
The picture Franz paints appears to be, for the most part, an honest one. James might well have been an exceptional musician and convincing vocalist, in addition to being a strong songwriter, but he wasn't without faults, inconsistencies, or the more than occasional backhanded attempt to pocket more than his share of money. Known to double-back on signed recording contracts and overlap labels, Elmore also ran afoul of the Chicago union for working with others who weren't current cardholders, skipping out with deposits for performances that he failed to fulfill, or recording for a company outside of the union, and he was also prone to drinking heavily and seemed to have a certain level of contempt for his fans, berating them publicly at times, much to the dismay of others. If there is one recurring error that possesses this work, it's that the author goes overboard in trying to capture the essence of the artist through a rather extensive catalog of recordings. With efforts of this sort, a good deal of the story is conveyed by dissecting recorded works and the sessions that involved those recordings, and while this doesn't detract from the contents, Franz comes across in favor of Elmore James as the do-all, end-all bluesman, which presents itself in glaring fashion now and then.
The book is peppered with biographical sketches on Joe Carter, Hound Dog Taylor, John Littlejohn, J.B. Hutto, and Homesick James and also covers some "Myths and Folklore." Curiously absent among the photographic layout is the earliest known picture of Elmore, one found in a private collection by noted researcher, Dr. David Evans. There are short sections on family members and musicians as well as producers and labels along with a complete discography, including a dizzying array of label shots, trade paper items, and a breakdown of all-known LP's and CD's that contain Elmore's music, which shows the author's propensity for binding together all pertinent information. Unfortunately written off by some as a slide guitarist with little more than one credible lick in his pocket, which is far from the total picture of the man or his enormous contributions, his story has been long overdue considering the early research of Europeans that began as far back as the late 1950's. James was never interviewed by today's standards, and when he was, it was well before his catalog of work was completed. Although "The Amazing Secret History of Elmore James" might not uncover any earthshattering finds, the fact that everything has been neatly gathered together is unquestionably commendable. Its list price is a bit expensive for a paperbound book, but what is included will thoroughly satisfy those interested in getting a total picture of the man and his numerous recording ventures. Highly recommended. (CR)

 
BLUES WITH A FEELING  THE LITTLE WALTER STORY by Tony Glover, Scott Dirks & Ward Gaines ● CD $24.95
Paperbound, 316 pages. Detailed biography of one of the greatest and most innovative bluesmen of the post war era - the man who reinvented and created a new language for blues harmonica and was dead at the age of 37. The book covers his early life, his influences and his career with extensive details of all the recording sessions he was involved in and the people he worked with. Includes some fine photos, some previously unpublished plus posters, ads and other ephemera including Walters selective service application and his union card. (Counts as five CDs for shipping)

 
CHICAGO BLUES AS SEEN FROM THE INSIDE: The Photographs Of Raeburn Flerlage by Raeburn Flerlage ● CD $22.95
Photographer Ray Flerlage has been documenting the Chicago blues scene since the late 50s and his wonderful photos have graced many record albums and appeared in numerous books and magazines. This wonderful collection features some of Ray's most well known photos as well as many not published before. Among the artists captured by Ray lens are Big Joe Williams, Little Walter, Jimmy Dawkins, Mike Bloomfield, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sunnyland Slim, Jazz Gillum, Furry Lewis, Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Muddy Waters and many others. The photos include posed publicity shots, live on stage shots and candid photos informal home gatherings. There's an introduction and brief commentary on the photos by Flerlage. Paperbound, 152 pages. (Counts as five CDs for shipping)

 
DON'T GET ABOVE YOUR RAISIN' - Country Music & The Southern Working Class by Bill C. Malone ● CD $34.95
New book from one of the leading writers on country music examines the relationship between the music and the working-class culture that has constituted its principal source, nurtured its development, and provided its most dedicated supporters. Hardbound, 392 pages. (Counts as eight CDs for shipping)

 
YONDER COME THE BLUES by Paul Oliver, Tony Russell, Robert Dixon, John Godrich, R.M.W. Dixon & Howard Rye ● CD $22.95
Republication of three important and seminal studies of blues originally published in England in the early 70s. "Savannah Syncopaters" by Paul Oliver looks at the possible African retentions in blues, Tony Russell's "Blacks, Whites & Blues" looks at the musical interchange between black and white musicians in the pre war era and Robert Dixon & John Godrich's "Recording The Blues' discusses the history of the recording business as it related to recording blues. Each book is presented in its entirety and is followed by an essay updating the original books. Each book features a number of illustrations. Paperbound, 352 pages. (Counts as 6 CDs for shipping)

 
CAN'T BE SATISFIED : The Life & Times Of Muddy Waters by  Robert Gordon  BOOK   $25.95
New biography of the father of Chicago blues - his life and music and the many people he worked with and gave a start to over the years. Includes photographs, rare and familiar and several appendixes but no complete discography. (Counts as 8 CDs for shipping purposes) 408 pages, hardbound.

 

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