The Essential by Casey Bill Weldon

Label: Classic Blues.
Release Date: July 10, 2001.
Recording Time: 109 minutes.
Release Info: Compilation Studio Recording.
Recording Date: 1935 - 1938.

Styles: Acoustic Chicago Blues, Country Blues, Regional Blues, Pre-War Country Blues, Acoustic Blues, Jug Band.

When in 2001 the Classic Blues label released a two-disc, 36-track Essential Casey Bill Weldon, the producers opted to skip his early recordings with Vol Stevens, Ollie Rupert, and the Memphis Jug Band (of which he was a cardinal member) to focus for the most part upon records he made under his own name during the years 1935-1938. Another double-disc Weldon retrospective was released in 2003 by Fremeaux, and either by chance or design, the two collections have no songs in common, as Fremeaux concentrated on the years 1927-1934. Try as you may, it is impossible to confine Weldon within the parameters of any given genre. "I Believe You're Cheatin' on Me" begins with a lick first used on record by guitarist Sylvester Weaver. It would later serve as the melodic lynchpin of the "Steel Guitar Rag" as popularized by Bill Boyd's Cowboy Ramblers and Bob Wills' Texas Playboys. Yet on some of his Vocalions and most of the 13 Bluebird sides sprinkled throughout this collection, Weldon closely emulated St. Louis bluesman Peetie Wheatstraw both vocally and in the choice of subject matter.

Weldon is believed to have had a hand in writing "Somebody Changed the Lock on My Door" and was also responsible for "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," and "Somebody's Got to Go," neither of which made it onto this collection. All three reference the sort of salty, quarrelsome, possessive male behavior that has been etched into countless blues recordings, and in extreme cases, manifested itself in the form of domestic violence, as was the case with wife-slayer Alger "Texas" Alexander. In light of this, it's interesting to note that during the '20s, Weldon was married to and recorded with feisty Lizzie Douglas, better known as Memphis Minnie. Although none of their collaborative works are included here, Weldon is heard with a strong array of blues artists who were active in Chicago at that time: Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Washboard Sam, Charlie McCoy, Bill Settles, Black Bob, Joshua Altheimer, and Blind John Davis.

On "Guitar Swing," Weldon harmonizes with a vocal group who saluted heavyweight champion Joe Louis by naming themselves the Brown Bombers of Swing. The results sound like a combination of Bill Boyd's Cowboy Ramblers and the jive-singing zoot-suited string band who recorded for Bluebird as the Cats and the Fiddle. "Oh Red!" was waxed for ARC in October 1936 by clarinetist Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four. Nelson was also a participant (with Tampa Red and Washboard Sam) on "Street Walkin' Bluesm," "Brown Skin Mama," "Arlena", and "Please Come on Down to My House." These sides, which were recorded for Bluebird in November 1935, were released under the name of the Washboard Rhythm Kings. (They should not be confused with a number of other records cut during the '30s by a pool of performers including Steve Washington, Teddy Bunn, Taft Jordan, Ghost Howell, Clarence Profit, and washboard virtuoso Bruce Johnson, who were billed as the Washboard Rhythm Kings, the Washboard Rhythm Band, the Washboard Serenaders, and the Georgia Washboard Stompers. Weldon had nothing to do with those groups.) His Essential collection is another fine entry in the Classic Blues catalog. For a more thorough and systematic approach look at the Classic Blues label's parent company, Document, and their chronologically presented three-volume edition of Weldon's primary recorded works. ~ arwulf arwulf.

Credits: Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four - primary artist; Francis Blackwell - composer; R. Brown - composer; Richard Havers - liner notes; E.A. Smith - executive producer; Washboard Rhythm Kings - composer, guest artist, primary artist; Casey Bill Weldon - composer, guitar, primary artist, vocals; Will Weldon - composer; Williamson - composer.

Tracks, Disc 1: 1) Two-Timing Woman; 2) Someday Changed the Lock on My Door; 3) Street Walkin' Blues (feat. Washboard Rhythm Kings); 4) W.P.A. Blues; 5) Has My Gal Been Here; 6) The Big Boat; 7) Lady Doctor Blues; 8) Back Door Blues; 9) Front Door Blues; 10) Red Hot Blues; 11) Casey Blues; 12) Brown Skin Mama (feat. Washboard Rhythm Kings); 13) I Got a Letter This Morning (feat. Washboard Rhythm Kings); 14) You Talk in Your Sleep; 15) Guitar Swing; 16) Rooster Blues; 17) Oh Red! (feat. Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four); 18) Sales Lady.

Tracks, Disc 2: 1) I Believe I'll Make a Change; 2) Blues Everywhere I Go; 3) I'se Just a Bad Luck Man; 4) You Just as Well Let Her Go; 5) Big Katy Adam; 6) Please Come on Down to My House (feat. Washboard Rhythm Kings); 7) Round and Round; 8) Do You Think That's Right?; 9) Casey Bill's New W.P.A.; 10) You Shouldn't Do That; 11) Way Down in Louisiana; 12) You Gotta Do Your Duty; 13) Did You Mean What You Said?; 14) Arlena (feat. Washboard Rhythm Kings); 15) Can't You Remember?; 16) Go Ahead, Buddy; 17) I Believe You're Cheatin' on Me; 18) Spider Blues.