Label: Document Records
Release Date: 1990
Recording Time: 62 minutes
Recording Date: 1928 - 1929
Releases: October 4, 2000; July 2, 2002; April 12, 2005
Styles: Acoustic Memphis Blues, Early American Blues, Pre-War Blues, Pre-War Country Blues, Regional Blues
This 20-song compilation of Frank Stokes' late-'20s recordings for the Victor label is a more expansive version of the Stokes collection available on Yazoo Records, with very little overlap between the two. The sound is variable, as is usually the case with Document's releases, some songs sounding like they came from decent master sources and others purely of academic interest, in terms of the playback quality. What isn't variable is the quality of Stokes' playing, singing, and songwriting, which is filled with wry humor throughout, veiling a certain degree of pride and restlessness, and all manner of clever lyrical and musical conceits. This disc is well worth owning in tandem with CDs devoted to Stokes' work with the Mississippi Sheiks.
by Bruce Eder
Featured Artist: Frank Stokes, vocal, guitar
Includes: Dan Sane, guitar; Will Batts, violin.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
With nearly forty songs issued on record, some of them in two parts, Frank Stokes was one of the most extensively recorded of the Memphis blues singers of the 1920s; only Jim Jackson's total of recordings is comparable, and many of Jackson's were remakes of 'Kansas City Blues' Like Jackson, Stokes blends blues with songs from the medicine shows and from the ragtime days of his childhood. Not only was his repertoire one of the most interesting of its time, it was superbly sung, and backed, whether solo, in partnership with Dan Sane, or with Will Batts, by some of the most accomplished and appropriate blues and ragtime playing on record.
When Victor's field recording unit came to Memphis early in 1928, among the black musicians waiting for it was Frank Stokes. Not only was his repertoire one of the most interesting of its time, it was superbly sung, and backed, whether solo, in partnership or with Will Batts, by some of the most accomplished and appropriate blues and ragtime playing on record. He had already made records for Paramount with his regular partner, Dan Sane (see Document DOCD-5012), and it was probably with Sane that he cut his first session for Victor.
At this session, in February 1928, the emphasis was on blues, rather than the older songs that were also part of Stokes' repertoire; but when Victor returned in August, to record Stokes solo, he played I Got Mine, one of a body of pre-blues songs about gambling, stealing and living high. More up to date was Nehi Mamma Blues, which puns on the Nehi soft drink and the knee high skirts that were the fashion sensation of the jazz Age. Dan Sane rejoined Frank Stokes for the second day of the August 1928 session, and they produced a remarkable two-part version of Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do, a song well known in versions by Bessie Smith and Jimmy Witherspoon, but one which pre-dates blues recording.
Credits: Will Batts - violin; Percy Grainger - composer; Johnny Parth - compilation producer; Robert Prince - composer; Dan Sane - composer, guitar; Chris Smith - liner notes; Frank Stokes - composer, guitar, guitar (rhythm), primary artist, vocals; Clarence Williams - composer.
Tracks: 1) Downtown blues (take 1); 2) Downtown blues (take 2); 3) Bedtime blues; 4) What's the matter blues; 5) Mistreatin' blues; 6) It won't be long now (take 1); 7) It won't be long now (take 2); 8) Nehi mamma blues; 9) I got mine; 10) Stomp that thing; 11) 'Tain't nobody's business if I do, part 1; 12) 'Tain't nobody's business if I do, part 2 (take 1); 13) 'Tain't nobody's business if I do, part 2 (take 2); 14) Take me back; 15) How long; 16) South Memphis blues; 17) Bunker hill blues; 18) Right now blues; 19) Shiney town blue; 20) Frank Stokes' Dream; 21) Memphis Rounders Blues.