- Roamin' and Ramblin'
- David "Honeyboy" Edwards
- Earwig Records
Venerable David “Honeyboy” Edwards and his factotum Michael Frank have produced simultaneously a historical album, a concept album, and an album of distinguished guest artists. Regardless of how it’s categorized, it’s one to obtain and cherish.
Edwards, about to turn 93 years old in June 2008, is still going strong at the time of this writing in May 2008 and is one of the last living country blues masters. During the 20th. Century he knew and played with a myriad of blues greats, including Charley Patton, Tommy McClennan, Big Joe Williams, Robert Johnson, Big Walter Horton, Sunnyland Slim, and Robert Lockwood Jr. Wow! what a list! The man has been around! He has even written a lauded autobiography, and his peripatetic touring just adds to it lore.
“Roamin’ and Ramblin’” is a series of duets of guitar and harmonica, featuring Honeyboy on guitar and vocals, with such luminaries of the mouth harp as Billy Branch, Walter Horton, and Bobby Rush. The performances limn a remarkable career, from 1942, when Honeyboy was first recorded by musicologist Alan Lomax in Clarksdale, MS, to autumn 2007.
There is nothing polished about the album. It’s just primal, gut-bucket, passionate, basic blues. Honeyboy’s guitar playing is not as dazzling as some of his contemporaries’ was, but what it lacks in eclat it compensates for in emotion and solid rhythm. Likewise his own harmonica contribution, from a 1942 take of “The Army Blues,” is moving without being virtuousic. Michael Franks’s harp accompaniments on cuts from 1976 and 2004 are understated (and underrecorded); the remainder of the harp contributions are superb: tasteful, evocative, while unobtrusively complementary with Honeyboy’s fretwork. Big Walter Horton especially shines on his brief 1975 instrumental duet with Edwards, “Jump Out.”
Honeyboy’s vocals range from the surprisingly smooth tenor rendering of “The Army Blues” to the more raspy and gritty quality of his last three decades. Except for a few tunes, including one each by Lockwood and by Leroy Carr, the cuts are Edwards compositions.
Before the album closes with “Jump Out,” there is even an brief dialogue between Honeyboy and Bobby Rush, where they discuss the essence of the blues. Rush refers to “mortifiyin’” the blues, but there’s nothing moribund about this album; it’s the real goods.
[This review initially appeared on the BluesWax Web site.]