Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Dues Paid: The BluesTime Story [Ace, 2013]
Blues revivals have a long history that began with the acoustic finds of the JFK-era folk circuit, lionized Muddy and Wolf and their crowd, and moved on. Thus wandering record mogul Bob Thiele, whose Impulse label was where Coltrane became mythic, devised the late-60s BluesTime imprint to introduce rock dudes to pre-rock Texas-KC stalwarts Big Joe Turner (1911-1985), T-Bone Walker (1910-1975), and Cleanhead Vinson (1917-1988) as well as crucial Chicago pianist-vocalist Otis Spann (1930-1970). Soon dead of cancer, Spann doesn't play much, and four of the 15 tracks document only Thiele's lifelong tendency to throw pocket change at oddities he'd tripped over (you may think you recall Harmonica Slim, but you don't). Nevertheless, Walker and Turner made many slacker records, and from beginning to end the material is either straight down the middle (Walker on "Every Day I Have the Blues," live Big Mama Thornton "Hound Dog") or so far off the plate it gets driven the other way (Turner's "Plastic Man," Walker's "Sail On"). And it saves the best for last: the 14-minute jam "Paris Blues" and the crazed Leon Thomas classic "Disillusion Blues." Really, try to hear that one. B+