Matchbox Bluesmaster Series: Country Blues & Ragtime Blues Guitar 1926-30
Volume 1 of the CD release of the iconic Matchbox Bluesmaster LP series from the 1980s with extensive notes from world authority on the blues, Paul Oliver
The 42 LP albums that make up the iconic Matchbox Bluesmaster Series were released by Saydisc Records between Nov 1982 and June 1988. Most of the albums were subtitled “Complete Recordings in Chronological Order” with a few under the subtitle “The Remaining Titles” or “New to LP”. The originating 78 rpm records (many of them extremely rare) were provided by several collectors under the editorship of well known Austrian collector, Johnny Parth and were re-mastered by Hans Klement of Austrophon Studios in Vienna. Johnny Parth had already created his extensive Roots Records label which Saydisc distributed in the UK and the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series was a carefully sculpted edition of black blues roots music giving a broad spectrum of the genre. Saydisc has in its vaults many more pre-Bluesmaster blues albums which may be issued on CD in due course.
Matchbox Bluesmaster Volume 2 Country Blues & Great Harp Players 1927-32
“Between the years 1982-1988, Matchbox Records released 42 LP albums… Now they are brought to life again… I think these two sets of albums provide us with an interesting mix from a bygone era.” Ingemar Karlsson, Jefferson Blues Magazine (Sweden)
“These fantastic albums suggest those following during the year will be well worth waiting for. For any follower of country blues guitar these are an absolute must. Even allowing for the background noise because of their age, the blues here is timeless.” Pete Clack, Blues In Britain
“Both of the present volumes focus on the country blues of the deeply segregated South, with Vol. 1 extending into ragtime blues, and Vol. 2 shining a spotlight on harp players. With over 80 tracks in each volume, I found incredible diversity and richness, especially in the unique approach each artist had to playing the guitar or wailing on a harmonica, and the sheer rawness of the emotion in each voice. Many of the innovations made by these artists would ultimately feed directly into rhythm and blues, and then rock and roll, and you can already hear intimations of Chuck Berry’s chug in Stephen Tarter and Harry Gay’s ‘Brownie Blues”. I eagerly look forward to future volumes in the Bluesmaster series.” Head of Jazz at Presto Jazz
BBC Radio4 Front Row 5th January 2021 - Tom Sutcliffe discussing Matchbox Bluesmaster with Jazz and Blues specialis Kevin Le Gendre, a British journalist, broadcaster and author whose work focuses on Black music
KLG: They’ve done some serious archaeological, just incredible work where they’ve basically recovered these recordings which cover mostly 1926 to the early ‘30s, 1930, 1932, and I think what is really really interesting is the fact that they’ve brought relatively new names to the table. Even for people who know the basics of the Blues who would be able to tell you about Robert Johnston or Blind Lemon Jefferson or Charlie Patton or others, to actually hear the music of Buddy Boy Hawkins, Richard Rabbit Brown, Peg Leg Howell, Texas Alexander is really quite a revelation because it shows you that there was another generation before the ones who really made it a larger commercial breakthrough and that those founding fathers were really quite exceptional in the way that they were able to come up with some very very sharp lyrics and also use very very interesting sounds just with the range of instrumentation, what they’re doing rhythmically, the way they are using syncopation, it’s really quite remarkable.
The core elements of the Blues that we all have to know about, and that resonate down through the ages, that’s the important things, like the impact that it has on modern day pop music, through it’s evolution into Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll is strong rhythm, really really interesting percussive sound, what he’s doing in between the lines, that crunch that he gets from the guitar which is similar to a banjo technique as well, it’s basically strumming but giving it a thump and a percussive drive and then as you’ll hear on other songs in the collection, the improvised guitar lines weaving in and out of the voice, and then the voice doing non verbal sounds, it’s like blurring the line between what the voice can do and what the guitar or the violin in some cases can do.
TS: Now there’s a huge range of subject matter, I mean even topical news events, there’s a song here about the Titanic, I can almost hear echoes, pre-echoes of Bob Dylan’s big ballade about the Titanic there, but are these objects of study now, are they musical fossils essentially, butterflies pinned in a drawer or do they remain a pleasure to listen to in their own right for you?
KLG: They absolutely remain a pleasure to listen to but more to the point they still resonate through modern day popular music. Those basic techniques, not just the actual sounds but the imagery as well. One of the words that you hear throughout the songs on these collections is ‘baby’, you know, which again that could be one of the ultimate clichés but it’s still there, we still use it, because it’s really really resonant, because it’s so emotionally charged, so I think the foundation that they’ve laid is still rock solid, it’s still there and it still provides a vocabulary that contemporary artists have to refer to.
TS: Were women performers?
KGL: There’s that whole school of women from Ma Rainey to Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, later on in the collection I think there’s going to be music by St. Louis Bessie, Bessie Mae Smith, all of these women singers were pretty formidable as well.
A rare insight into the world of black musicians of the day…. what you have in these sets is an absolute goldmine of early blues…..These fantastic albums suggest those following during the year will be well worth waiting for….these are an absolute must. …. the blues here is timeless. Released on CD and digital for the first time ever, the Matchbox Bluesmaster series is the most comprehensive survey tracing the origins of Black American Blues Music offering a rare insight into the world of black musicians of the day. The first two 6CD sets (1926-32) are out now, with further sets released later in 2021 and spring 2022. All the releases are tied together by the erudite notes of Paul Oliver, a leading authority and researcher on jazz and blues music. Fascinating for blues enthusiasts and collectors, this series will bring to the attention of younger people, the power and importance of this music. It is clear that 'black music matters' and that it has been the back-bone of almost all popular music forms, from rhythm and blues, to reggae, rock and roll, Motown and gospel.
Blues In Britain Apr 21