Review ARCHIE EDWARDS & DR. ROSS: Piedmont Blues Meets Mississippi Delta Blues

The title might suggest fusion, or that we get to hear the two featured artists sing and play together, but while Edwards and Ross toured together – and are heard here playing in Greece on that 1988 tour – on this recording at least, they play separately. Their tracks are arranged (roughly) alternately on the disc, so maybe they took turns, or maybe they played separate sets but the producers of this disc decided it would make better listening if they mixed it up a bit. Either way, there is much to enjoy. This was 1988, so Ross was in his sixties and Edwards around seventy. and both were in fine form. Edwards picks on a resonator guitar, with his skilled and very satisfying synthesis of a variety of influences, including elements from his own Piedmont blues tradition, as well as from records-not mutually exclusive of course, given the number of records Blind Boy Fuller and Buddy Moss made, for example, and there are echoes of both here. l’d guess he probably enjoyed the young John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins on disc too. Also important to him was his friendship with Mississippi John Hurt (who did not play Piedmont blues, despite what Wikipedia insists), when both men lived in Washington D.C. towards the end of Hurt’s life. ‘The Road Is Rough And Rocky’ was his tribute to Hurt, based on licks he picked up from the older man, and he does justice to the song and the memory here. I have no complaints about Dr Ross either, although he was a very different proposition. On some songs, like ‘Chicago Breakdown’ he’s rocking down with heavy strummed guitar and harmonica on a rack – the sound he put on record in Memphis and Detroit thirty years before. On others, he plays and sings unaccompanied: ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’, evokes John Lee Williamson and Biscuit Baking Woman’ recalls Eddie Burns, but the unaccompanied format conjures images of back-porch entertainment back down in Mississippi where Ross originally came from. It would be stretching a point to suggest that the pair’s very contrasting styles, and their ability to invoke memories of a rich and varied blues heritage, meant that those fortunate 1988 audiences were being treated to a two-man blues festival. Whoever decided to put them together for a tour, though, was inspired (or maybe just lucky!). Both artists made better recordings, but even an old pair of ears finds all this a thorough treat to listen to.

Ray Templeton Blues & Rhythm