DIRTY WORK GOING ON-KENT AND MODERN RECORDS BLUES INTO THE 60s VOL 1.

Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1.

Label: Ace.

Format: CD.

As the fifties gave way to the sixties, musical tastes were changing and soul music’s popularity started to grow. By then, new labels were  being launched across America and labels like Stax, Atlantic and Motown were among the most successful soul labels. They were hit-making machines and also released countless classic albums during what was a golden era for soul. 

By the end of the sixties, soul was more popular than blues music.  This had been unthinkable a decade earlier as it had been part of the soundtrack to the fifties and many blues records were big sellers.  That was no longer the case and soul had overtaken blues in the popularity stakes. The times they were a changing and so was music.

Despite this, there was a still an audience for the blues during the sixties and labels like ABC-Paramount and their imprint Bluesway plus Chess, Kent and Modern were home to some of the giants of the blues. However, the singles and albums they released sold in smaller amounts or passed many record buyer’s by. Some critics thought that the blues music was no longer relevant and it was destined to become a footnote in musical history.

That never happened and fifty years the blues is alive and kicking. New blues albums are being released each and every week. Some labels are reissuing blues albums from the sixties and early seventies which may have passed record buyers first time round. Other record companies are releasing blues compilations and this includes Ace. Their latest compilation Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 which has been released to mark an important anniversary.

In 1999, the Japanese label P-Vine released the first instalment in its Modern/Kent Blues Treasures CD series. This was the first of four volumes which were  limited editions of 300. Each of the compilations featured West Coast blues obscurities from the vaults of the Bihari Brothers’ labels. For some people this was the first time they had heard these tracks and was the start of a voyage of discovery.

Twenty-one years later and Ace have just released another compilation of blues that was recorded or released by the Bihari Brothers’ labels. This is Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1. It looks back at the West Coast blues between 1958 and 1970 and features twenty-six tracks. This include seven previously unissued tracks and eight that featured on the P-Vine compilations in 1999. There’s contributions from B.B. King, Big Jay McNeely, Billy Ray aka Fillmore Slim, Flash Terry, King Solomon, Larry Davis, Little Joe Blue, B.B. King and T-Bone Walker. They provide a reminder of the blues music being recorded by the Bihari Brothers’ labels during this period.

It’s best described as  largely a mixture of B.B. King, funk, R&B and the social comment in the lyrics. By the time the music was being recorded the civil rights movement was trying to bring about change during what was one of the most turbulent times in American history  Some of the blues being recorded for the Bihari Brothers’ labels reflects this. This includes some of the music on Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1.

Texan bluesman Billy Ray aka Fillmore Slim opens the compilation with the first of the unreleased track. This is a soul-baring version of Go Ahead (Take 3) which was recorded in 1962. So was his horn driven and swaggering cover of Fast Gun Annie which featured on the P-Vine compilation West Coast Modern Blues 1960’s in 1999.

 King Solomon had been on serval smaller labels before signing to Kent. During 1966 he released New Figure as a single Dear Mr President which deals with the subject of conscription. On the B-Side was Mr. Bad Luck where he lives the lyrics.

Little Joe Blue  recorded Understanding for Kent in 1967. However, this rueful look at the human condition wasn’t released until 1999 when it featured on the P-Vine compilation West Coast Modern Blues 1960’s. So was Jimmy’s Special an uplifting dance track that was recorded in 1967.

T-Bone Walker was one of the most important and innovative blues guitarists. He pioneered the electric guitar and was a flamboyant showman who inspired Jimi Hendrix.  He wrote and released Hey Hey Baby on Modern in 1965 which features an impassioned vocal and showcases his skills as a guitarist. On the B-Side was another of his compositions, Should I Let Her Go? It’s slow and moody and his vocal is a mixture of doubt, sadness and hurt. Then there’s Jealous Woman which was recorded in 1964 and features a hurt-filled vocal.  Despite its quality it wasn’t released until 1992 on the Cascade Records’ box set 60 Great Blues Recording. Another recording from 1964 was Love Will Lead You Right which was s only released on the Ace compilation Blues Around Midnight in 1988. Belatedly this underrated blues returns for a well deserved encore.

Larry Davis like many blues guitarists had been heavily influenced by B.B. King. However, unlike many blues guitarists he used a lot of effects. He contributes It Can Only Hurt For So Long which was recorded in 2020 and has never been released before. It’s a similar case with the beautiful paean Something About You Baby (Take 7). Both were recorded at the same session and are a reminder of a talented bluesman whose music is often overlooked.

Flash Terry’s first contribution is a slower alternate take of On My Way Back Home. It’s never been released before and is a welcome addition to the compilation. So is One Thing We Know which was written by Flash Terry and released as a single on Kent in 1958.

Stacy Johnson recorded an extended version of Duke Coleman’s Consider Yourself for Kent. However, it was another track that lay unreleased until 1999 when it made a belated debut on the P-Vine compilation West Coast Modern Blues 1960’s.  

Saxophonist Big Jay McNeely  wrote Blues In G Minor (Blues Guitar) which was on the B-Side of Deacon’s Hop when it was released by Modern in 1969. He  plays a starring role as he unleashes a blazing solo on this glittering hidden gem.

B.B. King is the other bluesman on Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1. He contributes Down Now (Take 3) another of the unreleased tracks on the compilation and a reminder of one of the most popular bluesmen.

For anyone with even a passing interest in blues music Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 is a compilation that’s well worth buying. The twenty-six tracks were recorded between 1958 and 1970 and there’s seven previously unissued tracks and eight that featured on the P-Vine compilations in 1999. Most of these tracks were recorded during a time when blues music’s popularity was on the decline. However, one thing that wasn’t declining and that’s the quality.

Proof of that is the music on Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 and especially the tracks by Billy Ray aka Fillmore Slim, King Solomon, T-Bone Walker, Larry Davis, Big Jay McNeely and B.B. King. They’re part of what’s one of the best blues compilations of 2020 and later this year Ace will release the second volume If I Have To Wreck LA which features Texan blues. It’s got a lot to live up to given the quality of music on Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1, which  is also the perfect primer to West Coast blues.

Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1.

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