April 1st, 2015

Lightnin'Slim

Title: I’m a Rolling Stone – Louisiana Swamp Blues

Artist: Lightnin’ Slim

Label: Jasmine

Format: 2 CD set

Release date: January 9, 2015

If you want a taste of the music played in Southern juke joints in the 1950s, this is a great place to start. Jasmine Records’ new Lightnin’ Slim Centenary Edition, I’m a Rolling Stone: Louisiana Swamp Blues, collects all of “The Singles As & Bs 1954-1962” in a two CD set that throws a spotlight on the 45s released primarily for the juke box market before Slim was “rediscovered” by blues fans.

Lightnin’ Slim, aka Otis Hicks, was born in St. Louis, MO in 1913 but spent most of his life in Louisiana, moving to Baton Rouge in 1946 where he remained until his death in 1974. Working in a fertilizer factory by day, his evenings were spent gigging in various blues clubs where he earned the moniker Lightnin’ Slim due to his affinity with another blues legend, Lightnin’ Hopkins. In 1954 Slim cut his first single, “Rock Me Mama (tr. 1) with the mournful “Bad Luck” (tr. 2) on the flip side, for Jay Miller’s Feature label, but also released some 45s on Johnny Vincent’s Ace label in Jackson, Mississippi, and recorded one session for Chess in Chicago. In 1958 he ditched the factory job to become a full time musician, touring with his band and releasing additional singles on the Excello label, which became synonymous with the Baton Rouge swamp blues sound.

As noted by liner notes author Bob Fisher, the 44 sides featured on this set not only define the swamp blues subgenre but also highlight one of Slim’s catch phrases, “Play your harmonica, son.” Harmonica solos on the set are performed by Schoolboy Cleve (on the Feature and Ace sides), with Lazy Lester on most of the other tracks. Though these recordings have been featured on other compilations, according to Fisher “this is the first time [Lightnin’ Slim’s] singles have been compiled A side and B side in one package and provide a unique opportunity to hear the progression of his music in chronological order just as the tracks would have appeared on jukeboxes and radio stations across Louisiana.”

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Review Genre(s): Blues


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