Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 11: Black Diamond Express
In this, the penultimate 6 CD set, we feature blues piano – a much neglected area of the blues – from the unique playing of Cripple Clarence Lofton to two albums from “The High Sherriff From Hell” himself, Peetie Wheatstraw, a cross section of the music of Little Brother Montgomery and much else besides. Kokomo Arnold is the one non-piano-playing artist on this set and, in his short recording career, marked himself out as a seminal figure. He also appears with Peetie Wheatstraw on a number of tracks. The final CD is of hot gospel music from pre and post war eras.
"This is a journey. We're taken from hell to heaven via some of the dodgiest barrelhouses and juke joints to be found in America in the middle of the last century... Number eleven in the Matchbox Bluesmaster reissues brings us six more CDs that bring together recordings from some of the biggest names in black music from the middle of the last century, as well as some of the most obscure… As with all these CD reissues, we have cause to be infinitely grateful to the original compilers and to series producer Gef Lucena for bringing these magnificent performances to us. As Blind Mamie and her husband A.C. Forehand declare, we can be so glad today that God – or the devil – has given us this music." Jazz Rag, Stuart Maxwell
"Since January 2021, the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series has brought to the digital realm and to six-CD boxed sets a wealth of mostly pre-war African American music… there's much to enjoy here… The final gem in this set offers the contents of a 1970 double LP-26 tracks, 78 minutes on a single CD. Black Diamond Express to Hell is 13 pre-war (1927-1936) gospel (in the broadest sense of the term) recordings and 13 more from the postwar era (1944-53)" Mark Humphrey (Living Blues, USA)
“This six-CD set (the eleventh in Matchbox’s excellent reissue series) provides yet more evidence of the inestimable value, both cultural and social, of the blues and related music.” London Jazz News, Chris Parker
"What an achievement! … An outstanding document of more than 30 years of record releases. Game, set and match. Max W Sievert (Jefferson Blues Mag, Sweden
“As we reach the eleventh set of this unmissable collection of historic blues recordings, yet again it's like opening a treasure trove, each set bringing new and lasting pleasures for blues fans. Set 11 seals the bond of what a great series these Matchbox Bluesmaster compilations are, covering recordings from 1929 to 1969, everything still sounding absolutely amazing. As with the other sets, these recordings were originally issued on vinyl in 1970, but have never seen light of day on CD until now… One listen to this superb set of recordings confirms that expectation: these are long overdue nuggets of pure blues gold… Quite simply, like this entire series, this is another box of unmissable recordings, as fresh and exciting today as they were when they were first recorded. Don't miss one disc of this wonderful series.” Pete Clack (Blues In Britain, June 2023)
Note: The final set, no. 12 in this incredible series due later this year, features an unmissable collection of British blues devoted to the British Blues Boom of the 1960s: Dave Kelly, Jo Anne Kelly, Dave Peabody, Fran McGillivray, Mike Cooper, Ian Anderson and many more.
“As with all these CD reissues, we have cause to be infinitely grateful to the original compilers and to series producer Gef Lucena for bringing these magnificent performances to us. As Blind Mamie and her husband A.C. Forehand declare, we can be so glad today that God – or the devil – has given us this music.” Stuart Maxwell, Henry’s Blueshouse
“The various sets cover the gamut of early blues from gospel, hokum, and ragtime leading to the advent of modern blues, rock & roll, and the 1960's British blues boom. Many of the recordings come from very obscure and rare 78's. The box sets have all of Paul Oliver's notes provided in the original releases… for those who wants to delve into the deep history of the blues, the Bluesmasters series is certainly an excellently archived collection.” John Sacksteder, Blues Blast Magazine
"The latest six-CD boxed set in the marvellous Matchbox Bluesmaster series collates six compilation albums originally released in the late 60s and early 70s. CD One includes piano-led tracks recorded between 1929 and 1943 by Cripple Clarence Lofton (such as an exuberant ‘I Don’t Know’), The Mississippi Jook Band, Shorty Bob Parker and others. CD Two features 1935-1938 tracks by dazzling slide guitarists Kokomo Arnold including ‘The Twelves’ (his version of ‘The Dirty Dozens’) and ‘Big Ship Blues’ which shows his skill as a lyricist… CD Five compiles Little Brother Montgomery tracks recorded between 1930 and 1969. Included are three versions of his rhythmically complex signature song ‘Vicksburg Blues’ and ‘Winding Ball Blues’, an elegant instrumental. CD Six is dedicated to African-American church music recorded between 1927 and 1953 and includes electrifyingly powerful performances such as ‘Laid My Burden Down’ by Prophet B.W. West and ‘I’ll Fly Away’ by Rev. B.C. Campbell and Congregation." RnR May/June 2023, Trevor Hodgett
Since January 2021, the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series has brought to the digital realm and to six-CD boxed sets a wealth of mostly pre-war African American music… there's much to enjoy here… The final gem in this set offers the contents of a 1970 double LP-26 tracks, 78 minutes on a single CD. Black Diamond Express to Hell is 13 pre-war (1927-1936) gospel (in the broadest sense of the term) recordings and 13 more from the postwar era (1944-53). - Mark Humphrey (Living Blues, USA)
Blues piano, as David Harrison (note-writer to Disc 1), points out, is an under-represented and under-researched area of the music. He attributes this neglect to the perceived “inauthenticity” of the instrument in what was seen as a predominantly rural, country artform by its champions in the Blues Revival. The examples of the form included on most of the discs in this collection (Kokomo Arnold’s tracks feature him on guitar) demonstrate just how short-sighted this view was. Disc 1, Blues Piano, features a representative selection of pianists, beginning with one of the most justly celebrated: Cripple Clarence Lofton, whose two tracks (recorded in 1939 and 1943) showcase the Tennessee bluesman’s jaunty, spirited playing complementing his pleasantly laid-back vocals. Blind Roosevelt Graves then contributes two vocals, backed by his own guitar and the piano of Will Ezell…The St. Louis-based brothers Aaron and Lindberg Sparks conclude the selection, which more than vindicates Harrison’s assertion that these recordings are “neglected classics”. If ever this last description applied to the oeuvre of anyone in early blues, it surely applies to the work of the performer on Disc 2, Kokomo Arnold. His fourteen tracks here showcase all his considerable strengths: a blisteringly urgent vocal style, powerful (left-handed) bottleneck guitar playing, lyrical inventiveness. He started his career (in 1930) with a bang, his two greatest sides “Paddlin’ Blues” and “Rainy Night Blues”… Concluding with 26 Gospel tracks, divided equally between those recorded pre- and post-war, and ranging from the downright sentimental (“Mother’s Prayer” by A. C. Forehand) to the fiercely evangelistic (“Arise and Shine” by Lonnie McIntorsh) or joyously celebratory (“I’ll Fly Away” by Rev. B. C. Cambell and his lively congregation), this six-CD set (the eleventh in Matchbox’s excellent reissue series) provides yet more evidence of the inestimable value, both cultural and social, of the blues and related music."Full review here - Chris Parker, London Jazz News