Southern Train (2018)

McGhee, Carr, Broonzy

Brownie McGhee

Consider the music of Walter McGhee, characterised by easy, flowing guitar and the warmest voice in the blues, instantly recognisable. It’s a voice astonishingly rich in texture, although he can give it a cutting edge when the material demands it, and its expressive tonal qualities have even improved over the years, as these 1971 performances show.

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Brownie McGhee

Walter ("Brownie") McGhee was a blues singer and guitarist, well known for his collaboration with harmonica player Sonny Terry. Brownie was born in Tennessee in 1914, and was active in his home state until the late thirties when he moved to North Carolina with the express intention of becoming a recording artist. 

He'd heard of J.B. Long, an enterprising chain-store manager, who'd progressed from stocking blues 78s to actually setting up sessions himself, and whose hottest property among local musicians was Blind Boy Fuller. By the time McGhee hit the Carolinas, Fuller was ailing, and he died in 1941. J.B. Long was desperate to keep tight hold on a successful formula, so he, at first released Brownie's records under the pseudonym Blind Boy Fuller No 2, even though he was well aware of the singer's individual potential.

Over many successful years, Brownie McGhee's performances were so honed and polished that he more often sings not as a release from care but from a conscious artist's desire to communicate.  But he always tells the truth, and hearing him is like having a conversation with a friend.

photo: from booklet 'Southern Train' (label 2xHD)

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Southern Train (2018)

McGhee, Carr, Broonzy

Brownie McGhee

    Jazz Journal

This album is particularly rich in examples of how Brownie McGhee can bring his originality to bear on traditional material and the compositions of other bluesmen. Howdy Blues is a variant of Good Morning Blues, and here the Brownie McGhee lilt has replaced the near ferocity of the famous versions by Leadbelly. Mean Old Frisco is performed here as Southern Train, in an interpretation more relaxed than the usual train blues, but still evocative of its subject. On both of these and the tender reading of Leroy Carr's In The Evening, Brownie receives the most sensitive support from Sonny Terry's harmonica. Big Bill Broonzy's Key to the Highway provides Brownie with a chance to prove that he can fashion a completely new guitar part for a well-worn piece, but perhaps the best guitar playing of the date is on Can't Sleep at Night, a tremendously fluent and swinging performance. Although Brownie might miss out a bar now and again if the mood takes him, his chord vocabulary is wide, he makes all the changes, and his style is among the most melodically appealing in all blues. And, typical of his confidential story-teller's approach, he adds new words arising out of his immediate circumstances to the standard choruses of Key to the Highway: ˜I might get my breakfast here in Denmark, Might get my dinner in New Orleans I'm the highway walkingest man the world has ever seen.' A reflective and moving Sporting Life Blues makes a satisfying end to an intimate and very accomplished recital.

Southern Train (2018)

McGhee, Carr, Broonzy

Brownie McGhee

Analog Recording Equipment: Nagra-T Tape Recorder
Digital Converters: Merging Technologies Horus
Editing Software: Pyramix
Mastering Engineer: Rene Laflamme - Analog to DSD 256 transfer
Producer: Karl Emil Knudsen
Recording location: Copenhagen on November 13 and 14, 1971
Recording Type & Bit Rate: Analog

This album was recorded to Analog tape. It was then transferred to the DSD bit rate indicated above.

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2XHDST1127: Southern Train
00:40:25   Select quality & channels above
Tracks.
1.
Southern Train
McGhee
00:05:04   N/A
2.
I Can't Sleep at Night
McGhee
00:02:47   N/A
3.
Key to the Highway
Broonzy
00:05:21   N/A
4.
In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down
Carr
00:04:10   N/A
5.
We Have No Friends
McGhee
00:04:07   N/A
6.
Sporting Life
McGhee
00:03:42   N/A
7.
Death of Blind Boy Fuller
McGhee
00:02:38   N/A
8.
My Last Suit
McGhee
00:03:52   N/A
9.
Howdy Blues
McGhee
00:04:43   N/A
10.
Worried Life Blues
McGhee
00:04:01   N/A

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