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Reviews


Dr. Blues
Long Island Blues Society
Spring, 2002




more reviews of Archie Edwards
 
Archie Edwards’ sweetness belies the difference between the Delta and the Piedmont. The Delta is hard and crusty, reflecting the toughness of life, slaving to stay alive. Not that it’s all cake, but the Piedmont didn’t drain every ounce from your soul and the music reflects a bit more ease, smoothness and lyricism. Archie Edwards was huge part of Washington, DC’s blues scene and was frequently found sharing stages with his buddy Mississippi John Hurt. He didn’t record much though this disk captures a 1986 concert in Toronto and is of exceptional sound and musical quality. Archie plays his hollow body Gretsch steel pan guitar with authority and fluidity. His voice is smooth and restrained. His timing and phrasing are on the money, joining together to create a country blues masterwork. The sessions came between Eurotours and, at age 68, he was in top form, smooth and mellow and confident. Brought up in a house filled with music (and moonshine), Archie’s been playing since a fateful meeting with Boyd Maddox’ guitar as a young boy. Playing his first pro gig in 1933, he continued throughout his life as a sawmill employee, truck driver, Army MP, taxi driver and proprietor/barber at the Alpha Tonsorial Palace. His shop became a nidus for DC area bluesmen. Between haircuts, the beers would open and jams would ensue. Frequent visitors like MS John, Skip James, John Jackson, Phil Cephas and John Wiggins filled the joint. Edwards’ had a keen appreciation for the music and history and he was vocal in his support of the Virginia country blues tradition. His shop was the clubhouse and he was one of the founding members of the DC Blues Society. Rarely recorded, Archie did have a few singles on the German L&R label and a Mapleshade release featuring himself, Richard 'Mr. Bones' Thomas and Mark Wenner of the Nighthawks. He saw his role as more of a teacher and caretaker for the tradition. This disk sees his finger picking interspersed with some slide. His blues is straight, 'not all dressed up' and he was still playing them the way he did when he learned them, influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson and MS John. The songs start on an autobiographical basis like I Had A Little Girl or one his early Jefferson favorites, One Thin Dime Blues. His version of the MS Sheik’s Sitting On Top Of the World is strong yet smooth and is a recounting of hard times looking up. Archie frequently wrote songs based on a few lines he remembered from his Daddy’s 78's back in the 30's. Easy Rider is a loose adaptation of Blind Lemon’s Easy Rider Blues and his How Long Blues incorporates the 3rd verse from Scrapper Blackwell and Leroy Carr’s huge hit How Long How Long Blues. Poor Me is a topical blues set in the economic turmoil of the Reagan presidency and the disk ends with another adaptation called Meet Me In the Bottom which seems to be based either on Buddy Moss’ Oh Lordy Mama or Blind Boy Fuller’s Boots and Shoes. The voluminous liner notes add immeasurably to the joy of the disk and create a fine package, important not only from a historico-collector perspective but also for pure listening pleasure.

8 snaves.
 


"Playing his first pro gig in 1933, he continued throughout his life as a sawmill employee, truck driver, Army MP, taxi driver and proprietor/barber at the Alpha Tonsorial Palace. His shop became a nidus for DC area bluesmen. Between haircuts, the beers would open and jams would ensue."