It gets no rawer. Robert Nighthawk, the sadly underrated and underrecognized slide-guitar master who, more than any artist, brought the Delta blues into the electric age, cut these songs out on—excuse me, IN—Chicago’s famous Maxwell Street just three years before his death.
This newly remastered version of the resulting album boasts five new tracks and a sound that puts you right there in the street with him, at what had to be one of the world’s best parties.
If you’ve ever seen that shot of John Lee Hooker playing in the street during the Blues Brothers movie, you know Maxwell Street—Chicago’s very own version of the French Market with music played right out in the road for all to hear.
You only have to listen to the batshit-insane slide work on “Honey Hush” to know that this is an essential document of an icon who recorded far too rarely. The interview at the end is priceless, too, with Mike Bloomfield egging him into impromptu songs (“Kansas City”), history lessons (“In the club, they like anything you play, but in the street, they want certain numbers”) and wry wit (“I try not to work for two different men. I’m already workin’ for the devil”).
Having the complete recorded jam is the real attraction, though, especially when the sound quality is so good that you hear the band urging him to testify in the “All I Want For Breakfast / Them Kind Of People” medley and the band giving cues to each other on “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” which is so raw, no one has yet been able to determine who actually stepped up to the microphone to sing it. Now THAT’s street.