Blues collectors will welcome Blues Beginnings, a nice compilation of early electric blues. Empire Musicwerks offers a great selection of rare material that you won't easily find elsewhere. From labels like Parrot, Blue Lake, Chart and Swingtime, the electric efforts of Lightnin' Hopkins, J.B. Lenoir and a host of obscure blues artists appear in nicely re-mastered form. The music is, for the most part, interesting and well played. Singer Joe Williams shows up with the Red Saunders band in a 1953 session for Blue Lake Records. Williams' version of the Leroy Carr classic "In The Evening" is wonderful. Williams shares the tune with trumpeter Sonny Cohn and tenor man Leon Washington who deliver passionate solos. It was a surprise to find the arrangement is by avant-garde arranger Sun Ra. Mabel Scott's 1953 Parrot recording of "Mr. Fine" is a powerful interpretation backed by trumpeter King Kolax and his band. Unfortunately, most members of the Kolax band are still unknown to discographers. We liked "Sweet Angel" by Clarkesdale bluesman, Earl Hooker. Hooker's old touring partner, harp player, Little Sammy Davis does a fine job on his own composition, "1958 Blues." It's a mover! Other favorites are "Blues After Hours," a Pee Wee Crayton tune delivered by The Aristocats and "Falling Rain Blues." The latter is an old Lonnie Johnson favorite offered here by Little Willie Foster from a 1955 session for Parrot Records. One wonders about the last tune on the album. It's the Leslie Louis (Joe Hill Louis) reading of his own "Ridin' Home." Louis' harmonica and sax-man George Lawson get involved in a "call & response" routine. Sadly, both musicians are playing in different keys. It's weird but interesting.
Blues Beginnings gets high marks. It's our understanding that Empire Musicwerks will release more material of this type in the future. It sure beats hunting for those pricey vinyl singles. On the other hand, we'd like to see some discographical notes on future offerings.