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Document records

Hociel Thomas & Lillie Delk Christian

Hociel Thomas & Lillie Delk Christian – 1925-1928

Document – DOCD-5448
Hociel Thomas (1925-1926) gamblers dream – Sunshine baby – Adam and Eve had the blues – Put it where I can get it – Wash woman blues – Ive stopped my man – Deep water blues – Gwan I told you – Listen to ma – Lonesome hours - Lillie Delk Christian (1926-1928) Lonesome and sorry – Baby o mine (take a) – Baby omine (take b) – It all depends on you – Aint she sweet – My blue heaven – Whos wonderful! Whos marvellous? Miss Annabelle Lee – Youre a real sweetheart – Too busy! – Was it a dream? (waltz) – Last night I dreamed you kissed me – I cant give you anything but love – Sweethearts on parade – Baby – I must have that man

Lillie Delk Christian Hociel Thomas

There’s a clear contrast in styles and quality between Thomas and Christian. Both tried (and sometimes succeeded) to create a hybrid of jazz-blues-pop, and both have benefited from the presence of Louis Armstrong’s cornet. The comparison ends here.
Hociel Thomas hailed from a family of musicians. Her father was a renowned pianist, and her aunt was none other than Sippie Wallace. Unfortunately, Thomas often sings in a key where she isn’t at ease, which results in her sounding tired and not very engaged and even top-notch musicians like Armstrong can’t transform more than average material into gold.
Lillie Delk Christian is more interesting vocally, and her material is far superior (I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Ain’t She Sweet, I Must Have That Man). This probably explains why the band gives a better performance. Noone (clarinet) and St Cyr (guitar) enliven the December 12 session featuring My Blue Heaven and Miss Annabelle Lee with gutsy accompaniment and fine solos. Armstrong appears six months later for the June 26, 1928 session. This session features the best, Too Busy, a bouncing number with Armstrong scatting, and the worst of Christian, Was It A Dream, a waltz that doesn’t allow the Hot Four to express themselves.
The last recordings lack a bit of swing in the vocals but are saved by a good rendition of I Must Have That Man.
This selection is an excellent addition to anyone interested in Satchmo’s early years and work as a backup band. Despite some flaws and, Lillie Delk Christian’s sides have a certain charm and are appealing enough for a curious listener and anyone who digs Annette Hanshaw with whom she shares a common repertoire and style.

Find it here.

Note: two more Christian tunes (Sweet georgia Brown and Sweet Man) can be found on Vocal Blues & Jazz – Remaining Titles Vol. 3: (1921-1928)

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Tommy Johnson

Tommy Johnson – 1928 – 1929

Document Records – DOCD-5001
Cool drink of water blues – Big road blues – Bye-bye blues – Maggie Campbell blues – Canned heat blues – Lonesome home blues (take 1) – Lonesome home blues (take 2) – Big fat mama blues – I wonder to myself – Slidin` delta – Lonesome home blues – Boogaloosa woman – Morning prayer – Black mare blues (take 1) – Black mare blues (take 2) – Ridin` horse – Alcohol and jake blues

Tommy Johnson

Probably because he doesn’t have the same romantic aura around him as his homonym Robert, Tommy is not the Johnson that history, or more precisely the media, remembers.
His recording career was brief, with only 17 titles, all available here, but the quality was constant.
During two sessions, one for Victor (songs 1-8) and the other for Paramount (9 to 17), he recorded one of the most interesting, rich and unique catalogues in terms of Delta Blues that’ll influence many generations after him (Howlin Wolf, Houston Stackhouse…). He was also among the first to come with the “crossroad mythology”.
His voice is full of intensity, especially on autobiographical pieces like “Canned Heat Blues” or “Maggie Campbell Blues” (named after one of his wives) and can turn into a high-pitched falsetto, sometimes close to yodel. He supports it with a solid guitar style inspired by Charley Patton. Some sides show him backed by a second guitar (Charlie McCoy), a clarinet, and a piano on Black Mare Blues.
Maybe the Paramount sides, compared to the Victor recordings, don’t fit your quality standards, which is not a surprise from the label (Paramount, not Document), but make an effort, and you’ll be rewarded ten times by the quality of the music you’ll hear.
Sadly, Johnson’s bad temper and his alcoholic habits didn’t allow him to build a “serious” career, which I guess led to more alcoholism. He lost his royalties gambling and drinking and died in extreme poverty in 1956.
His musical legacy is a must-have for anyone interested in Delta Blues.

Available here
Fred “Virgil” Turgis