Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mama Don't Allow No Easy Riders Here [Yazoo, 1998]
Most Yazoo compilations take egalitarianism too literally, mixing the classic and the generic so that every 78 in the vault stands a fair chance of digitalization. That may happen on this collection of "Piano Rags, Blues & Stomps 1928-35" as well--note that Cow Cow Davenport's hit "Cow Cow Blues," which is definitive by definition, "will be included on a later album"--but boogie-woogie is so much more fun than country blues it doesn't matter. Beyond the distinct voices--Davenport's barrelhouse solidity, Arnold Wiley's quicksilver chromatics, Will Ezell's playful chopsmanship, Speckled Red's errant enthusiasm--a single rhythmic idea animates the flow, and just when you're tired of piano Red opens his mouth and teaches America the dozens. Plus on the ride out we have the lost Oliver Brown classic "Oh You Devil You," about which we know nothing, including how Harry Smith missed it. A-