VARIOUS Hard Time Blues 1927-1960

Fremeaux & Associates – 2CD set


Hats off to France’s Jean Buzelin and Jacques Demêtre for putting together this fine and thought-provoking collection. These 48 tracks vividly demonstrate African America’s attitude, via the blues, to the festering problems of racism, unemployment, poverty and the depression.


And what a who’s who of names, too. It kicks off with two tracks, Uncle Sam Says and Defense Factory Blues, by the great folk blues singer Josh White. There’s Tampa Red and Brownie McGhee, three classics by Big Bill Broonzy including the superb Get Back. Lead Belly’s Jim Crow Blues and The Bourgeois Blues lead us into a fabulous though poignant menu of anguish which includes Bessie Smith, Big Maceo, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker, and there are three sterling offerings from Champion Jack Dupree, a fine artist who put the troubles of pre-Civil Rights America behind him and became a true European, living in Paris and, of all places, Halifax in Yorkshire.


These songs are chilling reminders of the struggle a people experienced, and judging by the current resurgence of police violence in the USA towards black people, it’s a struggle which is far from over. The sleeve notes, in French with an English translation, open up the background in all its depressing detail.

This is more than great blues – this is history, and if you want to understand the music in depth, you need this.