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Flyin' High, A Collection Of Phoenix Blues, Rhythm, and Spirit

Southwest Musical Arts Foundation SWMAF 07

Thanks so much to Blues Blast Magazine for sending this one to me to review. At a time when commercial Blues recording is moving in the general direction of the white line in the middle of the road, it is good to be reminded of the wealth of material recorded in the 50s and 60s that serves as the foundation to contemporary Blues and gospel.

Back in the dim and distant past – well 25 years ago anyway – I was made an honorary deputy sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ. The county seat is Phoenix, which is Arizona's largest city and state capital – all that aside, I’ve never been to the place before or since, and now I wish I had! Arizona, and in particular Phoenix, had, it seems, a vibrant R&B scene in the 1950s and 1960s and a great deal of it is reflected on this super CD.

The music ranges from early rock and roll, through jump Blues to gospel music and most of it is of the highest quality. Many of the recordings on this CD were made at Floyd Ramsey’s ‘Audio Recorders of Arizona’ studio on North Seventh Street and most of them had the advantage of a highly skilled engineer Jack Miller. Miller was often also link between final recorded versions of tracks laid down in the studio and the artists themselves. A good example is the man known by the name of the Lone Wolf. We do know that this was a man who went by the real name of Bob Felder and that he was a true one-man-band, playing guitar, hi-hat, bass drum and harmonica, and of course singing, in a whirl of activity! Little else is know about him. Two of the three tracks that he laid down, two are included on this CD, and they are, in my humble opinion, worth the price alone.

Check out too, Rev. Louis Overstreet, a native of Louisiana, who stopped in Phoenix with his wife and four sons whilst making an intended emigration to Los Angeles. Overstreet reported that God told him to stay in Phoenix and before long, he was spreading the gospel 365/24/7 from his base at the St. Luke’s Powerhouse Church of God in Christ. Well, powerhouse is a good word here. The two tracks here “Rather Fight Than Switch” and “Black But Proud” are wonderful examples, of the sermonizing-in-song typified, 20 years before, by the work of the Rev. Samuel Kelsey and others. Powerful, foot-tapping, hand-clapping examples of truly spiritual music.

There are 27 tracks on this essential CD, and unfortunately, I do not have space to commend them all. But I cannot leave this review without mentioning the delight of listening to the track laid down by what is referred to as an “unknown Blues singer”, of the Elmore James/ Tampa Red classic, “It Hurts Me Too”. Apparently a mystery man who was present at an earlier recording session at a church hall, I asked if he could play the piano whilst people cleared up after the gig and it got recorded. What a performance! Another one which – alone - is worth the price of the CD.

This CD was compiled and produced by John P. Dixon and Bob Corritore. Corritore is a long time Blues musician, publisher, historian and proprietor of the Rhythm Room, Phoenix, Arizona's famous Blues Club.  The tape and disc transfers were made by the man who was often the original recording engineer, Jack Miller, at Jack Miller Productions, using WAVES Restoration software. Great job Jack!

It is possible you may find this one a bit hard to come by but my advice is don’t give up. Frankly, I cannot praise it enough!

Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South ( a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see ) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM  in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central).

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