Mississippi Sheiks, Bo Carter, Bessie Jackson, Lil Johnson, others – Roots n' Blues: Raunchy Business (1928-39)

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by Nick DeRiso

I always chuckle when I pull out this Columbia-Legacy compilation, a CD of pre-war tracks that boasts one of those blocky black PARENTAL ADVISORY stickers for explicit lyrics.

It’s an album of steadfastly dirty blues songs — though innuendo replaces the jarring language of today’s brazen new world. Still, their very content, even by suggestion, meant many of these sides were issued under pseudonyms to avoid problems with cops or the family lawyer.

Columbia made a terrific effort on this extensively annotated release at identifying folks like Lil Johnson — she recorded some killer sides with Big Bill Broonzy — as probably actually being Aletha Dickerson, a staffer at the old American Record Company. (Her tune “My Stove’s in Good Condition” asks that a prospective repair man “stick your match …,” well, you get the idea.)

Lucille Bogan also recorded as the truly salacious Bessie Jackson, singing: “I’m going to turn back my mattress and let you oil my springs.” Other memorable titles on this CD include “Sam The Hot Dog Man” and “The Best Jockey In Town.”

Of special note is “Driving that Thing,” made in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1930 by the Mississippi Sheiks — Walter Vincson (who sometimes recorded as Walter Jacobs) on guitar and vocals with Lonnie Chatman on violin and vocals. The Sheiks (pictured above) were a family band that played Mississippi’s Crystal Springs/Bolton/Jackson circuit back then.

Armenter Chapman, who would later lead the Sheiks, is also featured on “Raunchy Business.” Recording here as Bo Carter, Chapman’s best tune (embedded below) is called “My Pencil Won’t Write No More.”

In the end, it’s a fun little side trip into risque roots music.

Be warned, though, that this collection — part of the “Roots n’ Blues” series that started in the early 1990s with a celebrated Robert Johnson boxed set — rambles, indeed, from minstrel to barrelhouse, from brothel to medicine show. There is much that separates these songs, except this: the blush-inducing double entendre.

So, as one song here so aptly admonishes, if it don’t fit, don’t force it. They put the warning label on there for a reason.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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