Various: Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 3

The historic blues series annotated by Paul Oliver reaches number three, offering a comprehensive view of its subject across six CDs


The 42 LP albums that make up the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series were released by Saydisc Records between November 1982 and June 1988. Most of the albums were subtitled “Complete Recordings in Chronological Order” with a few under the subtitle “The Remaining Titles” or “New to LP”.

The originating 78 rpm records (many of them extremely rare) were provided by several collectors under the editorship of well-known Austrian collector Johnny Parth and were remastered by Hans Klement of Austrophon Studios in Vienna. Johnny Parth had already created his extensive Roots Records label which Saydisc distributed in the UK and the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series was a carefully sculpted edition of black blues roots music giving a broad view of the genre.

The series documented the early days of blues, hokum (a kind of arch, nudging blues style popularised in the city) and gospel music from 1926 to 1934 and gives an insight into the way that black music was first released on record. The music of these singers formed the backbone of later urban blues, rhythm-and-blues and, of course, rock ’n’ roll. The songs are frequently raw and primitive in character, but some outstanding playing and singing shines through many of the performances.

Putting this music into perspective are the masterful liner notes by respected blues historian Paul Oliver. They alone are worth the purchase. The present Matchbox Bluesmaster Series has been transferred from the 1980s vinyl pressings by Norman White using high-end transcription techniques. This was clearly a challenging task but worth the effort. Not surprisingly, the original master tapes for the vinyl releases vanished long ago. Saydisc say that they have in their vaults many more pre-Bluesmaster blues albums which may be issued on CD in due course. Let us hope so.

This is the third set to be released. Volume 1 is Country Blues and Ragtime Blues Guitar, 1926-30 and Volume 2 is Country Blues and Great Harp Players 1927-32. The CD sets are available at a realistic price (£29.99) and the release of this important series for the first time on CD should appeal to serious blues collectors and also attract (hopefully) a new generation of early blues lovers.

CD1: Memphis Harmonica Kings 1929-30. The Complete Recordings In Chronological Order Of Noah Lewis And Jed Davenport (50.54)
CD2: Texas Alexander Vol. 2 1928-29. Complete Recordings In Chronological Order (54.33)
CD3: Ramblin’ Thomas 1928-32. Complete Recordings In Chronological Order (55.32)
CD4: Various Artists: Country Girls 1926-29. Complete Recordings In Chronological Order (55.32)
CD5: Rufus And Ben Quillian 1929-31. Complete Recordings In Chronological Order (52.27)
CD6: De Ford Bailey And Bert Bilbro (1927-31). Complete Chronological Order.
CD1: Noah Lewis (hca, v); Jed Davenport (hca, p, g) and various support artists. Memphis, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois, USA, 1929-30.
CD2: Texas Alexander (v, acc). New York and Texas, USA 1928-29.
CD3: Willard “Ramblin” Thomas (v, g). Chicago, Illinois and Dallas Texas 1928-32.
CD4: Lillian Miller, Hattie Hudson, Gertrude Perkins, Pearl Dickson, Laura Henton, Bobbie Cadillac (v). Various locations including Dallas, Chicago and Memphis, USA 1926-29.
CD5: Rufus Quillian (v, p, g); Ben Quillian (v). Atlanta, Georgia and New York City 1929-31.
CD6: De Ford Bailey (hca); Bert Bilbro (v, hca). New York City, Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte 1927-31.
Matchbox Bluesmaster Series MSESET3