Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Best There Ever Was [Yazoo, 2003]
Between conglomerates milking catalog and collectors tailgating hype, I don't know how many multi-artist blues CDs I've gone through in an absurdly oversold year. Not counting Clint Eastwood's piano comp, this purist entry from a label that scoffs at both musical consistency and proprietary propriety is the only one I've wanted to hear again. This may be because I've never paid country blues due respect, so that the three artists I've long treasured--John Hurt, Skip James, and Blind Willie Johnson--provide a launching pad into the more-difficult-than-advertised pleasures of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, and Charlie Patton himself. But it's also because the right songs by these artists hang together sonically--their strong tunes and distinct voices transcend regional disparity, as varied as the hit parade. And it's also because such minor legends as Geechie Wiley, Frank Stokes, King Solomon Hill, Robert Wilkins, and Garfield Akers score one-shots no matter what else they've got in their kits. A