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Music Review: David “Honeyboy” Edwards – Roamin’ And Ramblin’

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It's funny how popular music always seems to get such a bad name for itself when it's just starting out. Everything from early Delta bues to rock and roll has been referred to as "The Devil's Music" at one time or another in its existence. Yet while other music always seems to somehow or another become "civilized" or acceptable to mass audiences, the blues has continued to be on the outside looking in.

Back in the 1920's when Robert Johnson was playing in juke joints and honky-tonks in Mississippi the blues was considered the dark side of what was sung in the church on Sunday. Instead of setting people's minds to thinking of the sacred, it kept their minds firmly fixed on the profane by singing about wine, whiskey, and women. As they years have gone by, the secular nature of the blues has come to matter less and less, but while it retains a core following of faithful listeners, it has never achieved the wide spread success that so many of its offspring have realized.

Even though rock and roll co-opted blues for the majority of its sound, and a great many of its early hits were blues songs re-worked to suit the new genre, the blues continued to be marginalized. The blue's biggest strength, its raw passion and emotional power, has probably been the primary reason for its lack of commercial success with the mainstream audiences in North America. Most people look to entertainment as an escape from the real world, and the blues' isn't about running away, it's about testifying to the troubles of the world.
Honeyboy Edwards.jpg
You only have to listen to something like Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards' latest release, Roamin' and Ramblin', on the Earwig Music label, to hear how how raw and honest the blues can be. "Honeyboy" was born in 1915 in Shaw Mississippi and is one of the last of the great Delta Bluesmen left among us anymore. Like most of his contemporaries he did very little commercial recording early in his career, with his first tracks being recorded by Alan Lomax in 1942 for the Library of Congress. Like many other African Americans, Honeyboy left the South in the early fifties and moved up to Chicago, which has been his home base ever since.

It was a hard scrabble life playing in small clubs and on street corners. In 1953 he recorded several songs with Chess records, but they were never issued until recent years. That's not to say he didn't make any records, but the majority of his music appears to have been released on various anthologies, rather than under his own name up until the late 1970's. In 1979 when Michael Frank founded Earwig Records, Honeyboy recorded his first disc under his own name since 1953 with the release of Old Friends.

Since then he has released another eight albums, won a Grammy for best traditional blues album for Mississippi Delta Bluesman in 2001, and in 2007 was awarded the W.C. Handy award for Acoustic Blues Artist of the year.

For Roamin' And Ramblin' producer Michael Frank wanted to create a tribute to all the fine harmonica and guitar duets that Honeyboy had taken part in over the years. In his career, Honeyboy played with probably every great harmonica player to come down the pipe from Little Walter to Cary Bell. Unfortunately not only are many of these great players no longer with us, some of them never recorded with Honeyboy. The next best thing was to recruit two of the best harmonica players on the Chicago scene, Billy Branch and Bobby Rush to record with Honeyboy for this album.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://bonamassablog.us Joanie

    Well done, Richard. Glad you like the CD. And glad you get the significance of these recordings. I particularly like that Michael included himself on the CD because he’s been a big part of the continued success Honeyboy has in concert.

    I got a copy not long after seeing Honeyboy perform in San Diego (the day after his Grammy win for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen). I love the conversation with Bobby Rush, too. It’s wonderful to hear them talk about Little Walter and, well, just talk in general.

    My copy of the CD arrived via mail from Honey’s manager, along with a nice letter. I was thrilled beyond belief. I love both these men. They’re a special couple of guys.

    As soon as it comes back from school, I have an interview my son did with Honeyboy after the above mentioned concert. A full photo essay, too. If he’d been able to, my son would have included a review of this CD. He loves it!

    Definitely a MUST have in any blues lover’s collection.