Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sweeter Then Honey

David "Honeyboy" Edwards
Delta Bluesman

by Bill Dahl

Living links to the immortal Robert Johnson are few. There's Robert Jr. Lockwood, of course — and David "Honeyboy" Edwards. Until relatively recently, Edwards was something of an underappreciated figure, but no longer — his slashing, Delta-drenched guitar and gruff vocals are as authentic as it gets. Edwards had it tough growing up in Mississippi, but his blues prowess (his childhood pals included Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway) impressed Big Joe Williams enough to take him under his wing. Rambling around the south, Honeyboy experienced the great Charley Patton and played often with Robert Johnson. Musicologist Alan Lomax came to Clarksdale, MS, in 1942 and captured Edwards for Library of Congress-sponsored posterity. Commercial prospects for the guitarist were scant, however — a 1951 78 for Artist Record Co., "Build a Cave" (as Mr. Honey), and four 1953 sides for Chess that laid unissued until "Drop Down Mama" turned up 17 years later on an anthology constituted the bulk of his early recorded legacy, although Edwards was in Chicago from the mid-'50s on. The guitarist met young harpist/blues aficionado Michael Frank in 1972. Four years later, they formed the Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band to break into Chicago's then-fledgling North side club scene; they also worked as a duo (and continue to do so on occasion). When Frank inaugurated his Earwig label, he enlisted Honeyboy and his longtime pals Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton, Floyd Jones, and Kansas City Red to cut a rather informal album, Old Friends, as his second release in 1979. In 1992, Earwig assembled Delta Bluesman, a stunning combination of unexpurgated Library of Congress masters and recent performances that show Honeyboy Edwards has lost none of his blues fire.


by Scott Yanow

One of the underrated greats of country blues, Honeyboy Edwards is heard on this superior release at the beginning and in the later part of his long career. A very authentic blues singer and guitarist who occasionally played harmonica, Edwards grew up in Mississippi and was captured by Alan Lomax in Clarksdale in 1942 for the first 14 selections on this CD. Already distinctive at the age of 27, Edwards was in Chicago during the 1950s but, despite being quite active, he hardly recorded at all until the late '70s. The final 13 selections on this CD are mostly from 1991 and they find Edwards being featured both solo and with Sunnyland Slim and Carey Bell in an excellent quintet, still singing and playing guitar with power. He also tells a few stories about the distant past. As of this writing in 2006, the 91-year-old Honeyboy Edwards, nearly the last link to Robert Johnson and Charley Patton in the 1930s, is still performing at blues festivals. Delta Bluesman remains his definitive release.

1 Alan Lomas Introduces David Edwards
2 Roamin' and Ramblin' Blues
3 I'm from the Library of Congress
4 You Got to Roll [A Cappella]
5 You Got to Roll [version]
6 Water Coast Blues
7 Stagolee
8 Just a Spoonful
9 Spread My Raincoat Down
10 Hellatakin' Blues
11 Wind Howlin' Blues
12 Worried Life Blues
13 Tear It Down Rag
14 The Army Blues
15 They Called It Big Kate
16 Big Katie Allen
17 Black Cat
18 I Met Peetie Wheatstraw in '39
19 Number 12 at the Station
20 When I Came to Memphis
21 Rocks in My Pillow
22 We Used to Sing That When I Was a Kid
23 Decoration Day
24 Who May Be Your Regular Be
25 I Studied Up That Song Myself
26 Eyes Full of Tears
27 Bad Whiskey and Cocaine