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Honeyboy Edwards
Roamin’ and Ramblin’
Earwig Music Company # CD4953
By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker

19 songs; 51:13 minutes; Reference Quality
Genre: Mississippi Delta Blues

“Us blues purists have got to stick together,” said blues fan Ron the Watermelon Man recently in a telephone conversation. Ok, Ron, here is a unification plan all those purists can join: purchase the latest album Roamin’ and Ramblin’ and celebrate the music of David “Honeyboy” Edwards. When it comes to “pure blues,” it does not get more authentic than Mississippi Delta Blues, especially when the practitioner is, amazingly, one of the last remaining original Delta Bluesmen.

Born in the Mississippi Delta in June 28, 1915, the son of a sharecropper, David “Honeyboy” Edwards traveled the South hobo-ing as an itinerant bluesman in the 1930s and helped shape early folk music into what later generations turned into Rock and Roll. Still touring internationally, he is in demand today both for his sharp memory as a purveyor of the oral history of the blues (He was there the night Robert Johnson was poisoned) and for his music, performing at festivals, arts centers, colleges, clubs and special events.

This album is both a historical perspective and modern update with tracks from 1942, 1975-76, and 2007. The CD is producer and label owner Michael Frank’s attempt to recreate the guitar/harmonica duo and small group performances harkening back to the golden era of 1930s pre-WWII blues, when Honeyboy and the greatest Delta harmonica players gigged together, before any of them had recorded or gained notoriety. The CD features Honeyboy's old school guitar and vocals, fresh takes on old gems, and the first time release of some historic recordings. There are new 2007 sessions with harmonica greats Bobby Rush, Billy Branch and Johnny "Yard Dog" Jones, previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings of Honeyboy and Big Walter (“Shakey”) Horton, and circa 1976 live concert tracks - solo and with Sugar Blue. Michael Frank, Paul Kaye, Rick Sherry and Kenny Smith also play on the album on various tracks. Honeyboy and Bobby Rush also tell some short blues tales on two tracks.

At age 17, Edwards impressed Big Joe Williams enough to take him under his wing. Rambling around the south, often by hopping freight trains, Honeyboy experienced the great Charley Patton and played often with Robert Johnson. Honeyboy worked with Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and countless others while honing his musical skills on the streets and in juke joints across 13 states. Musicologist Alan Lomax came to Clarksdale, MS, in 1942 and captured Edwards for Library of Congress-sponsored posterity. Honeyboy met teenage blues harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs, and took Jacobs to Chicago in 1945, where they frequented the city’s famous Maxwell Street Market. After deciding to make Chicago his permanent home in 1956, he quickly became known as one of the city’s finest slide guitarists.

For new comers to the blues, understand that this is not contemporary full band music powered by electric guitars and high powered pyrotechnics acknowledged by the public’s civilians as “blues music.” This is the music that is at the roots of all the later styles!

For example, in the 1970s, I was always impressed with Neil Young playing guitar and blowing a harmonica on a neck rack simultaneously. Now play track 7, “The Army Blues” recorded in 1942, and listen to a 27 year old Honeyboy Edwards perfect the method that undoubtedly influenced Young. Edwards isn’t playing lead on one and rhythm on the other, he is playing complex lead melodies on both instruments - at the same time!

Truly hair-raising moments for any true blue fan: Honeyboy and Sugar Blue live in 1976’s upbeat shuffle “I Was In New Orleans Last Night” and two 1975 recordings with Big Walter Horton on harp, an instrumental “Jump Out” and “Smoky Mountains” with Horton providing alternate vocal lines with Edwards. Another highlight is a 2004 live recording of “Little Boy Blue” with Michael Frank backing Honeyboy on harp as done in most current live shows.

As with all “Reference Quality” albums, every track is simply great music! Time magazine is a periodical; National Geographic is a reference. Most music today is a periodical – something that marked a certain time - a month, sometimes a week. These recordings, and the man himself, are timeless.

James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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