Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 9: Jack O'Diamonds - Library of Congress field recordings 1934-1943
The six LPs of the Library of Congress Series were released as a joint venture between Flyright Records and Saydisc Records during the 1970s.
The original recordings made between 1934 and 1943 were made in the field on portable 78rpm lacquer disc cutting machines by various collectors. In the 30 years or so that they were lodged with the Library of Congress before being transcribed for this series in the 1970s many of the fragile discs deteriorated. The music recorded on those discs is of the highest importance in the history of the development of the blues and it was vital to preserve this for posterity. Some of the performances are really outstanding and from completely unknown and previously unrecorded singers and musicians some of whom (volumes 5 & 6) were in state penitentiary farms.
"Blessed with a post rock-and-roll mindset, and a much more enlightened understanding of black history, we can take the recordings for what they are: killer, killer blues and folk performances, hammered out in the moment by unschooled musicians who gave full rein to their raw virtuosity... This is the ninth of the superb reissues of the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series from Saydisc. It's a labour of love for series producer Gef Lucena and he's given the world's blues fans a priceless gift… As usual for the Matchbox Bluesmaster series, Jack O’Diamonds is an essential addition to any sensible collection." Jazz Rag, Stuart Maxwell
"Containing music originally released in the 1970s as a joint venture between Flyright and Saydisc Records, these six CDs comprise field recordings made between 1934 and 1943 by various collectors for the Library of Congress. The fragility of the resultant pressings – they were made on portable 78rpm lacquer disc-cutting machines – means that their transfer to CD as part of Nimbus Records’ Matchbox series is as timely as it is valuable. What was said (by John Work) about the the Fort Valley State College Folk Festival (Disc 2) could equally be said of the ongoing Matchbox series: “By bringing such inimitable music …to the attention of America, and in the same action proving to these musicians that their appreciative audience extends far beyond their church or corner storefront where they previously sang and played… preserves something extremely valuable in our American life.” London Jazz News, Chris Parker
"These voices from the vaunted Golden Age of field recordings were captured by recordists who became legends themselves: John and Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Wesley Work., who all worked to “stimulate and preserve something extremely valuable in our American life". The recordings reflect the preservationist's urge to document vestiges of dying traditions ("the living past") balanced by an acceptance of a then broadly popular and relatively new idiom, blues…there's no shortage of rough-cut gems throughout." Mark Humphrey, Living Blues (USA)
“Set nine in this historic series of blues recordings released on CD for the first time is an unmissable collection that will open your ears to music you've almost certainly never had the chance to hear before…. This is, again, a very fine set of recordings to finally have.” Pete Clack, Blues In Britain
“Volume 9, six further CDs, captures in unvarnished and nascent form more of what would become a worldwide phenomenon… Most of the people featured on this giant set…subtitled Library Of Congress Field Recordings 1934-1943, are considerably more unrecognised, even by the average blues fan which, in my view anyway, makes this sort of compilation all the more valuable and fascinating. The Library of Congress recordists, including the legendary John Avery Lomax and Ruth Terrill Lomax, perhaps took greater care over sound quality than did the commercial scouts as they were preserving for posterity rather than seeking immediate commercial success.” Barry Witherden, Jazz Journal
"Library Of Congress Field Recordings: If all this sounds rather dry, the music is anything but: blues and folk songs, often within clear regional styles, and played by musicians valued within their local communities." Norman Darwen (RnR)
"Preserving the history of the blues for posterity. Some of the performances are marvelous and come from unknown and previously unrecorded artists…With now nine releases, there are 54 CDs in the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series that recapture the blues and roots music from their earliest recordings. Saydisc and the folks at Bluesmaster have created a great archival set of music for fans and collectors to assemble and listen to!" Blues Blast Magazine (Steve Jones; president of the Crossroads Blues Society)
"Historical artefacts designed to capture music played by African Americans in a variety of locations and therefore are of significant importance to the history of blues… almost fifty years since they were originally reissued on vinyl albums it is great to rediscover some great performances… Some wonderful and historic music featuring some raw blues field recordings from the era means this is worth checking out." Tony Burke (Blues & Rhythm)
"Containing music originally released in the 1970s as a joint venture between Flyright and Saydisc Records, these six CDs comprise field recordings made between 1934 and 1943 by various collectors for the Library of Congress. The fragility of the resultant pressings – they were made on portable 78rpm lacquer disc-cutting machines – means that their transfer to CD as part of Nimbus Records’ Matchbox series is as timely as it is valuable. Disc 2 contains sixteen tracks recorded by John Work and Willis James, performed by artists featured at the annual Fort Valley State College Folk Festival in Georgia. Although both secular and spiritual music made up said festival, this disc confines itself to the former. The most memorable cuts are those by the only singer to have gone on to a commercial career: Buster Brown. His is a unique approach, his passionate vocals and harmonica decorated with spontaneous whoops and cries. Also utterly distinctive is Gus Gibson, his voice a powerful growl, which blends with his slide guitar to produce a beguiling, slightly eerie sound, all the more poignant for being recorded in the last year of his life… The Lomaxes are also responsible for gathering the music on Disc 5, played by inmates of various Texas penitentiaries. As on Discs 3 and 4, poor sound quality and premature endings militate against unalloyed enjoyment of the fare on offer here, but fortunately the best tracks, performed by a genuine though cruelly undersung star, Smith Casey – or possibly Casey Smith; his name is uncertain, are complete and relatively clear of surface noise: “ Shorty George”, “Santa Fe Blues” and “Hesitating Blues” are minor masterpieces, featuring plaintive, sweet moaning vocals against faultlessly picked, propulsive guitar... The Lomaxes’ shortcomings as recording engineers are again evident on Disc 6, which is disfigured by a number of abruptly truncated takes. The title cut, however, Pete Harris’s “Jack O’ Diamonds”, is complete, and features twice. Harris is the only non-convict on the CD, and his repertoire (not exclusively blues, but also made up of cowboy ballads and popular songs) is representative, as liner note writer Bob Groom points out, of his time. His voice has a keening edge to it, and his slide guitar playing (best represented on “Blind Lemon’s Song”) is particularly effective…” Full review here- Chris Parker, London Jazz News