Various Artists – Where’s The Money, Honey? A Compendium Of Blues Songs Celebrating Money Or The Lack Of | Album Review

Various Artists – Where’s The Money, Honey? A Compendium Of Blues Songs Celebrating Money Or The Lack Of

Jasmine – 2021

30 tracks; 79.49 minutes

This collection brings together a wealth of material, some familiar, some obscure, around the common theme of money, all recorded between 1947 and 1957. The set is annotated by the late Bob Fisher and compiled by Neil Slaven, both well-known blues writers. The disc is chronological, apart from the first track, Eddie Mack’s “Mercenary Papa” which comes from 1949, thereafter everything runs sequentially.

There is pretty much the full range of blues styles of the period represented, from the full band behind Eddie Mack’s opener, led by former Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams, to John Lee Hooker’s distinctive solo performance of “House Rent Boogie”. From the West Coast we hear Ivory Joe Hunter backed by trumpet and saxes on “High Cost, Low Pay Blues”, a recurring theme that we also hear on Charles ‘Chuck’ Norris’ “Money’s Gettin’ Cheaper”, probably best known from Jimmy Witherspoon’s version.

Eddie Vinson is another one outraged and bemoans having to pay taxes on “Luxury Tax Blues”. Amos Milburn’s piano is well up in the mix on “Money Hustlin’ Woman”, a relaxed style but another theme that recurs in this collection, the woman who is spending all the guy’s hard-earned money: check out Joe Hill Louis’ “She’s Taking All My Money” or Big Charley Bradix’s “Dollar Diggin’ Woman” as further examples.

Familiar names include Brownie McGhee, accompanied by some great piano work by Champion Jack Dupree, on a New York 1947 recording of “Dollar Bill”, and Roy Milton, who advises us all to “Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket”. Chicago sessions include Muddy Waters on guitar and vocal accompanied just by Big Crawford’s bass on “Train Fare Home” and Tampa Red with a full band on “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”. Sunnyland Slim appears on his own “Bad Times” as well as in JB Lenoir’s ‘Bayou Boys’ on “Deep In Debt Blues” and Jimmy Rogers & His Rocking Four give us a classic 50’s Chicago cut, “Money, Marbles And Chalk”.

Little Richard offers tips on how to “Get Rich Quick”, a terrific, sax-driven, full band track laid down in Atlanta in 1951, one of the finds of the CD for this reviewer. In contrast the Rosco Gordon track “Three Cent Love” suffers from generally distorted sound and some painfully discordant guitar work. Howling Wolf makes two appearances towards the end of the set, both recorded in Memphis in 1953: “Work For Your Money” was issued on a Chess LP but the rollicking “Hold Onto Your Money” remained un-issued, possibly because of a short drum feature.

Among the less well-known names are the full-voiced King Perry (and His Pied Pipers) and Chubby Newsome whose “Where’s The Money, Honey” provides the title to the collection. Vivian Verson shares vocals with Jimmy Smith, backed by The Red Calhoun Orchestra, on “Payday Lover” and Varetta Dillard sounds excellent on “Send Me Some Money”, as does Mickey Baker on guitar here. George Green’s “Finance Man” has a similar stop-start style to Willie Mabon’s “I Don’t Know”, memorably covered later on by The Blues Brothers. The last two tracks are clearly influenced by Rock and Roll, a 1956 “Leave My Money Alone” by Cornelius ‘Lonesome Sundown’ Green and Little Willie Littlefield’s “I Need A Pay Day” from 1957.

Overall an interesting selection of tracks set round a theme that is as relevant today as it was in the immediate postwar period.

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