Various Artists, Blues Kings of Baton Rouge (Bear Family)

Most of this material has been around the track more times than a seven-year-old Fair Ground’s claimer. J.D. Miller’s usual suspects are in the mix, but for the first time, these masters are mixed in with field recordings taped by folklorist Harry Oster, as well as a few other random sides. The golden age of Baton Rouge blues was the mid ’50s to mid-’60s, but by the late ’60s, the genre was considered a relic. Thankfully, the global blues revival discovered this classic material which spurred hundreds of music collections and books about Baton Rouge blues. This collection is bookended on the second CD by two lesser-known Slim Harpo gems—“Rainin’ In My Heart” and “Talking Blues (aka Blues Hangover).” Over a loping, hypnotic beat that could only have come out of Miller’s Crowley studio, Harpo relates a tale of an evening on “the stem” with bandmates James, Rudolf and Tomcat. All of Harpo’s familiar material is here to the point where you could assemble a greatest hits collection just from his material found here. You could also cull a similar set on Lightnin’ Slim from his sides here. “Rooster Blues,” “Wintertime Blues,” “Bad Luck”—all still are timeless blues and are included. Two other blues kings, Lazy Lester and Lonesome Sundown, are in the mix but not to the extent of the previously mentioned. Lesser-known artists Silas Hogan, Jimmy Anderson, Schoolboy Cleve and Tabby Thomas also capture the distinctive Baton Rouge sound and are on board. Of the primitive field recordings, listeners will note these bear no resemblance to what was coming out of Miller’s studio. But it’s all great stuff. Butch Cage, Smoky Babe, Isaiah Chattman, Robert Pete Williams—their music all helped launch the folk blues movement of the early ‘60s. Over 50 tracks are included and as with most European reissue labels, the collection has great sound, notes and historic pics that are part of the package. If you’ve been listening to this music for some time, you might pass on this one. However, Blues Kings of Baton Rouge would be the perfect intro-duction to this fascinating music.