Tabby Thomas Meets Lonesome Sundown, “Down in Louisiana” (Jasmine Records)

reviews-tabbythomasSouth Louisiana blues legends Tabby Thomas and Lonesome Sundown only share a co-billing on these vintage JD Miller sessions. Each is showcased separately with Baton Rouge’s Thomas having 18 tracks while Sundown has 10. Though this collection chronologically presents the early career evolution of both well, regrettably, it lacks details regarding which instruments each played as well as any sidemen information. Since Thomas played both piano and guitar, one could assume that any of the wicked piano playing was his. Lonesome Sundown was primarily a guitar man.

Thomas’ first two tracks were on Delta Records, where he exhibited a Roy Brown influence backed by a swanky orchestra. In 1954 Thomas began his association with JD Miller and recorded the tuneful local hit “Tomorrow” with a similar arrangement as the Delta sessions. He wouldn’t record again for Miller until ’59 and by then his sound was funkier and horn-propelled, with a New Orleans R&B edge. The tracks recorded from ’61 to ’62 are where he really hits his stride as a big-voiced performer. The colorful carnival “Hoodoo Party” was a Southern hit in ’61 and a year later Thomas landed another lucrative hit, “Popeye Train,” based on the popular Popeye dance craze occurring in the South at the time.

The tracks featuring Sundown were recorded between 1956 and 1961 and are not his total discography of this era but are an adequate representation of the former Clifton Chenier sideman’s raw, dark and swampy sound. His best sides of this timeframe are included here: “Leave My Money Alone” from his first record, the plaintive “My Home is a Prison” and jukebox favorite “I’m a Mojo Man.” It’s obvious he varied his textures and tones to always be stylistically evolving. Several tracks feature a pounding pianist in the arrangement.

Overall, the disparate styles of Thomas and Sundown are what make this collection sound eternally fresh.