From the first glance at the photograph on the 2020 calendar and booklet of the accompanying CD, our staff at the AAAMC was taken in by Blues Images’ 17th volume of classic blues songs and art. In the photograph, a youthful B.B. King stands at a WDIA station microphone in front of a wall advertisement for 51 Beer. With extensive black radio materials in the AAAMC’s special collections, we couldn’t help but get excited about this connection to our collections and our online exhibit about the Golden Age of Black Radio (including some great content focusing on WDIA).
B.B. King leads off the 22-track CD with “Got the Blues,” a mid-tempo piano-and-horn-driven performance by the blues master himself. The slow and steady “Blood Thirsty Blues” by Victoria Spivey follows, her vocals and an accompanying guitar lead coming sharply through from the original 78 disc thanks to the masterful digital transfers carried out once again by the Blues Images team. Another standout track with vocals and a killer guitar accompaniment is “Ashley Street Blues” featuring Leola B. Wilson and Blind Blake.
This year’s CD is filled with blues classics by other well-known masters who appeared on past volumes of the annual Blues Images package including the Mississippi Sheiks, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Bessie Jackson. Accompanying these tracks are recently discovered, never-before-heard songs by Juke Boy Bonner (“Life Is a Cheater”; “I Got Hip to It”). Other rare tracks that bring the annual calendar to life are an unreleased track by Blues Boy Bill and six recordings by artists such as Joe Stone and Mississippi Sarah.
Like previous years, the Blues Images staff is able to build a one-of-a-kind wall calendar using images from their vast archives of historical advertisements and photographs. Each month of 2020 has a stunning image that parallels one of the first twelve tracks on the CD. As always, the Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920s calendar and accompanying CD are a must have for blues enthusiasts. For more information about Vol. 17, visit www.bluesimages.com.
Reviewed by William Vanden Dries