various artists,
Blues at Kerrville
(Silverwolf Records, 1999)

Blues at Kerrville is a very nice collection of 13 blues songs by a variety of artists, in traditional blues style. That being said, I'm not sure how much more there is to say about this CD -- it's a pleasant introduction to the blues genre. Anthology CDs often suffer from a lack of pacing, and of a coherent vision that ties the album together in more subtle ways than the explicit theme, and this one is typical in that respect; while the songs are individually very enjoyable, the album as a whole is something less than the sum of its parts.

That's a quibble, though, and mostly relevant when one listens to an album repeatedly (as when working on a review). Blues at Kerrville has many good songs, performed very well. I appreciate being introduced to several artists and songs I didn't know, and new versions of songs I like.

A few of the songs really stand out for me. "Another Time & Place," the first song on the album, is a beautiful and quiet love song sung by Dave Van Ronk. I'll definitely be looking for more of his work! Josh White's "I Can Be Had" is a lot of fun, and Spider John Koerner does a great version of the classic song "Midnight Special."

I wish they had included more than one woman singer; while Marcia Ball sings two songs -- the only singer who does -- and does them very well indeed, the album seems somewhat out of balance.

The liner notes were a serious disappointment. A strength of anthologies is the way they can introduce us to genres, singers and songs with which we are not very familiar, and the best of them enrich this even more with notes on the style(s), the singers, the songs and the history of the genre. While this liner has some nice photos, it has nothing more than the singers' and songs' names. More information would have added to my appreciation of the songs, and helped me to find other blues albums to add to my collection.

Blues at Kerrville is a good album for people who don't know a lot about traditional blues, but who are interested in exploring them. While you won't learn much about the blues, you'll hear some excellent examples!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

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