This CD marks at least a dozen releases in Ace’s “by the Bayou” series. This time there’s more blues in the swamplands and East Texas. These releases all have a common theme. The music is both rare and quite often awesome. Some of the artists here are household names—at least in my household—but just as often they are totally unknown (in fact the final song on this 28-track set is credited to “Unknown.” Another common aspect of these compilations is that a great deal of material was found in the Crowley vault of producer J.D. Miller. However, the opening track—Mercy Baby’s “Pleadin’”—is rather the lone raisin in a bowl of tapioca. While the track is a burner (Mercy never made a bad record) and was the first ever release on New Orleans’ legendary Ric label, Mercy Baby recorded in Dallas (with Frankie Lee Sims) and the track was “loaned” to Ric by Ace.
A popular Miller artist with constant woman problems, when Lightnin’ Slim wasn’t worried about rats and roaches, he returned to his unending domestic woes. All four of his tracks address these woes, the best of the lot being the outtake of “Hoodoo Man” where Lightnin’ sounds absolutely miserable. Another Miller find, Slim Harpo’s “Cigarettes,” is a demo and while very good, doesn’t have the polished sound of a finished track. The second and last Boozoo Chavis Goldband single is found here and includes the truly bizarre “Hamburgers & Popcorn,” a song you’d definitely never hear a cover of. The title track has a local flavor as it was recorded by good old Polka Dot Slim, and along with “A Thing You Gotta Face,” first appeared on Camp Street’s Instant label. It was one of the greatest New Orleans blues two-siders ever. Barbara Lynn contributes a lively version of Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love” and speaking of Lester, his signature ‘’I’m a Lover Not a Fighter” is included and he’s also heard backing several of the other artists on this set. A Jimmy Reed disciple—nothing wrong with that—Jimmy Anderson’s “Angel Please” will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Other highlights include Ramblin’ Hi Harris two tracks. Joe Richard’s “Dreaming, Dreaming” sounds like a Slim Harpo outtake, as does T.B. Fisher’s “Don’t Change Your Mind.” Clarence Garlow meanwhile shakes the shack with “Make Me Cry.” Al Smith’s Goldband side “If I Don’t See You” is eerily similar to Larry Davis’ classic “Texas Flood.” A-1 package again from Ace—label scans, rare photos and info you can’t find anywhere else. Great stuff. You have to get this one if you consider yourself a blues fan.