Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to Jug Band Blues [World Music Network, 2017]
Beats me why nobody's done this before, but it's great top to bottom. The sole Memphis Jug Band entry among these 25 finds, Will Shade's take on the ineffable work of genius "Stealin'," isn't even best in show. That would be Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band's take on the equally ineffable work of genius "It's Tight Like That," which in the course of topping the leader's canonical Georgia Tom collab on the same song encodes into history the elan vital of a woman who laughs a verse in tune. Tampa Red also musters up daredevil jug and kazoo solos, but they're a baseline--the chances taken on both primitive instruments are hilarious and heroic throughout. It's as if all these forgotten African-Americans seizing their moment in the studio are inventing not rock and roll but punk, where for a few months a simple formal idea combined with an irrepressible social possibility to light up one 45 after another. Difference is, the formal idea isn't about energy, much less anger--it's about what a precious thing pleasure is when its lucky moment arises. And it lasted the better part of a decade. A