Best of the Batch: Elmore James
Blues Kingpins-Elmore James
Artist: Elmore James
Title: Blues Kingpins-Elmore James
Genre: Blues/Slide Guitar, Electric, Electric Chicago
Label: Virgin/The Right Stuff-www.virginrecords.com
The first sentence in the booklet that accompanies this CD says-"Elmore James is electric blues slide guitar." After listening to this collection of 18 tracks from the critically acclaimed Blues Kingpin series, I can vouch for that statement unconditionally.
The story of Elmore James is an interesting one. I was reading a book review this weekend on the biography of the blues legend and it stated that he was never interviewed and neither were any of his known relatives before they died. I find it appalling that these national treasures of music were taken for granted so blatantly. It is indeed a shame that we had to wait until they were gone before giving them the credit they so justly deserve. Although there is nothing we can do about the past, we can work on the here and now and change the outlook of the careers of those so maligned and forgotten. As trustees of their legacy labels pay tribute to these wonderful entertainers through exceptional CD series such Blues Kingpins. As the year of the blues comes to a close it is the outstanding efforts of labels like Virgin/The Right Stuff that will receive recognition and find themselves walking up to the podium to accept their W.C. Handy awards for their outstanding achievements in the realm of blues music.
For me as blues enthusiast, I found listening to this CD an educational experience as well as an ear and eye opening testament to the legend of Elmore James. His slide guitar playing was truly a wonder for its time. Recorded in the '50s, the tracks have been remastered to help the listener appreciate the emotion and effort that originally went into creating all of this music. As those that came before and after him, it was more than his six-string that drew attention...it was his voice that put the icing on the cake.
This is burn-the-house-down-blues, only communicated effectively with the proper inflection and tone of the vocal chords. James hollered and wailed as few ever have. During his career, his roots and constitution remained firmly implanted in his predecessor's shoes, Robert Johnson. Everything seems to always point back to that man when discussing all the blues greats. If you look to present day those influences are still prevalent. James was more than a music legend he was an intrinsic part of a culture and Americana. This great music has a past that will carry forward into the future to many more generations of listeners. Every time I hear slide guitar now I will think of Elmore James.