Bluesin’ By The Bayou, which was released by Ace Records in 27th May 2013, is described as: “low down, dirty and greasy blues from Louisiana.” As if that wasn’t enough reason to discover the delights of Bluesin’ By The Bayou, compiler Ian Saddler had added some zydeco for good measure. I was hooked. After all, blues and zydeco are a potent combination. That’s not even taking into account fourteen previously unreleased tracks. That was it. I had to grab a copy of Bluesin’ By The Bayou and see what all the fuss was about. Was Bluesin’ The Bayou the real deal?  Would Bluesin’ By The Bayou live up to the hype, or was this just over enthusiastic marketing? That’s what I’ll tell you, when I pick the highlights of Bluesin’ By The Bayou.

The twenty-eight tracks that feature on Bluesin’ The Bayou were recorded by J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler at their studios in Louisiana. Both men were talent spotters, who spent time finding and developing up and coming musicians. However, both J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler took different approaches to recording their artists.

When Eddie Shuler’s career started, he had no studio. So he had to take his artists to radio stations to record them. Eventually, when he became a successful producer and label owner, he had his own studios in Lake Charles. That was where Eddie recorded countless singles. Eddie continually studied his artists, watching their technique and was constantly, looking for ways they could improve them as artists. Once Eddie had his own studio, this was easier, because he wasn’t constantly having to think of the budget. This allowed him to take longer, and produce better music. In many ways, Eddie and J.D. were similar.

J.D. Miller is best described as a perfectionist. He set his standards high, and was known to constantly rerecord a track over and over, in his constant quest for perfection. While J.D. would rerecord tracks, he was known to constantly rebuild his studios. Many times, J.D. stripped his Crowley studio and rebuilt it. All this was in his quest for perfection. However, both J.D. and Eddie shared one trait..they were blessed with good ears, as many producers are. Listening to the twenty-eight tracks on Bluesin’ The Bayou, which I’ll pick the highlights of, you’ll realise this.

Many time, I’ve mentioned the importance of the first track on an album. It has to grab your attention. That’s the case with Bluesin’ By The Bayou. Silas Hogan’s Just Give Me A Chance, literally explodes into life. It’s as if Silas was making up for lost time. No wonder. He was fifty when he first met J.D. and entered a recording studio. By then, his unique brand of electric blues had a harder sound. This is apparent from the get-go. Silas grabs your attention. He doesn’t let go. You’re captivated. Driven along by his searing guitar licks, Silas’ powerful, pleading vocal is answered by bursts of harmonica. Describing this track as: “low down, dirty and greasy,” doesn’t even come close. Let’s just say mesmeric and majestic.

Lazy Lester’s Late In The Evening has a sound you associate with juke joints. You can imagine Lazy Lester providing the soundtrack to a smoke-filled club, late at night, as bourbon and beer goes down easy. That’s the sort of music this song paints. Born Leslie Johnson, the future Lazy Lester learnt to play harmonica listening to Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, he became part of Lightnin’ Slim’s band. Despite being overshadowed by his boss, Lazy recorded enjoyed a long and productive career. His languid vocal style, coupled with his impassioned harmonica playing was a potent partnership, as Late In The Evening and the emotive I’m Gonna Leave You Baby prove.

While some artists feature more than once on Bluesin’ By The Bayou, only Lightnin’ Slim features three times. Discovered by J.D. Miller, Slim, like many of J.D’s artists, signed to Excello, where he spent much of his career.  Big Fat Woman is his first contribution. Driven along by Lazy Lester’s harmonica, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Slim and Lazy are at the heart of the action. Lazy answers Lightnin’s call, each driving the other to greater heights. Slim’s other contributions, Stranger In Your Town and especially, I Ain’t Got No Money demonstrate just how good a blues guitarist and bandleader he was.

Although Joe Rich only cut a handful of tracks with J.D. Miller, they were some of the best of his career. Dreaming, Dreaming features a needy, desperate Joe pleading his way through the track. Accompanying him, are a chiming guitar and haunting harmonica. This proves a potent partnership, which also feature on Lonesome Lover Blues. It’s a slow, moody, but moving and impassioned paean to the woman he loves. His emotive, impassioned vocal, is delivered against a glorious blues-drenched backdrop.

Boogie Jake’s Early Morning Blues is a truly irresistible track. So why it has never been released before, doesn’t make sense. Thankfully, Ian Saddler, who compiled Bluesin’ By The Bayou, discovered this hidden gem. It was recorded in 1958, in J.D. Miller’s Crowley studio, but never released. That is, until now. Driven along by pounding, boogie woogie piano and guitar, Boogie Jake’s vocal is a mixture of heartache, hope and frustration. When the vocal and driving arrangement become one, the result is, one of the highlights Bluesin’ By The Bayou.

Talton Miller had the pleasure of working with both J.D. Miller and Eddie Schuler.   He even recorded Long Journey (Life’s Journey) for both men. This is the version he cut with J.D. The version he recorded with Eddie was released as Life’s Journey, while Talton become Taj Miller. Long Journey (Life’s Journey) which has never been released before, features some stunning bluesy guitar licks. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying, this track features some of the best guitar playing on Bluesin’ By The Bayou. 

Lonesome Sundown, who was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was self-taught musician, who could play guitar and piano. Having travelled to Texas, where he became a laborer, suddenly Lonesome became a musician, when he joined Clinton Chernier’s band. Playing rhythm guitar, he travelled all over America. Then in 1955, having discovered he was a talented singer, left the band. A year later, he recorded I’m A Samplin’ Man which demonstrates Lonesome’s twin talents as guitarist and singer.

While Leroy Washington was blessed with an abundance of talent, his life was cut tragically short. He died in 1966, aged just thirty-four, after a concert in Oakdale. So, we’ll never know the heights Leroy might have reached. This makes listening to Lost Love Letter Blues, which has never been released before, a poignant experience. Recorded at J.D’s Miller’s studio, from the opening bars, Leroy’s guitar playing is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. With the tempo slow, the piano and drums provide a moody, atmospheric backdrop. Having set the scene, Leroy as he delivers a vocal that’s filled with hurt and heartache. The result is a stunning track that leaves you wondering what if?

My final choice from Bluesin’ By The Bayou is Sylvester Buckley’s I Can Be On My Way. For many a long year, Sylvester Buckley played harmonica in Silas Hogan’s band. Now, his talents as a harmonica player are widely recognised and indisputable. However, few realized how good a vocalist he was. That’s because this track has never been released before. Now blues’ fans can hear the hidden talents of Sylvester Buckley, harmonica player and now, vocalist, thanks to compiler Ian Saddler uncovering this glittering hidden gem.

Described as: “low down, dirty and greasy blues from Louisiana,” Bluesin’ By The Bayou is all these things and more. From the opening bars of Silas Hogan’s Just Give Me A Chance, you embark on a mesmeric musical journey. That’s thanks to Ian Saddler’s crate-digging skills. He’s dug deep to come up with twenty-eight tracks this good. He combines blues and zydeco, including fourteen tracks that never before, have seen the light of day. That’s almost the musical equivalent to a Greek tragedy. Music this good, doesn’t belong in the vaults of a record company. Instead, it should be where people can enjoy. That’s the case here. Indeed, just as you think you’ve heard a track that can’t possibly be bettered, it is. That’s no mean feat. All killer, filler describes Bluesin’ By The Bayou perfectly. Just authentic dirty, greasy blues that conjurs up images of Louisiana. 

The moment you start listening to Bluesin’ By The Bayou, if you close your eyes, it’s like sitting in a juke joint down in Louisiana. All that’s missing, are the Marlboro, bourbon and beer. That, I’m sure can be rectified. Along with Bluesin’ By The Bayou, which was released by Ace Records on 27th May 2013, a good night is guaranteed for all. No wonder, Bluesin’ By The Bayou, with its combination of blues and zydeco, is one of the best blues compilations of 2013. Standout Tracks: Silas Hogan Just Give Me A Chance, Lazy Lester Late In The Evening, Boogie Jake Early Morning Blues and Leroy Washington Lost Love Letter Blues.


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