Big Joe Williams
Many of these older delta blues guitarists are just distant memories today. Rock historians grasp their influence but their rough sound is now far, far removed from the pop tunes and synth heavy sounds of modern music. Big Joe Williams grew up in the Jim Crow days of 1920’s America, but he made a mark that lasts to this day. He was a major influence on Bob Dylan’s early career and wrote a number of successful songs. He passed away in 1982.
Williams plays a nine string guitar; this is an odd instrument that gave him a distinct sound that no one else could master. It’s the prominent sound on this collection, just his voice and the occasional hand slap accompany it, and the resulting magic showcases the raw blues experience of a tough old guy who survived it all, and invented a good deal of it. His most famous composition “Baby Please Don’t Go” was fodder for the early British blues rockers; here’s it’s just a lonely lament of man in love with a cheating woman. By mid-record he’s on to the equally lost sounding “Don’t Want No Big Fat Women” and the amazing “Ride In My New Car With Me Blues.”
There’s a consistent sound here: spare, rough, and lonely. Here we find the raw emotion behind the better known electric blues rockers. While they couldn’t write with Williams’s sense of human suffering, they took his spare works and blew them up to change the world. While all the artist who made Williams material into their own hits acknowledge his influence, that sense of past is lost on the music lovers of today. This is the disk that can take you back and fill in the gaps.