Album DetailsLabel: Wolf
Styles: Blues, Acoustic Blues
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Styles: Blues, Acoustic Blues
One of the foremost bottleneck lap steel guitarists of the Prewar blues years, Casey Bill Weldon (1901 – 1972) was also a singer and songwriter who recorded for Vocalion and Bluebird. Now, Wolf Records (based in Vienna, Austria) is to be commended for this release in its “Blues Classics” series that will acquaint blues aficionados and historians with an artist worthy of much wider acclaim. This album, with its generous 24 tracks, documents Casey Bill Weldon’s work during the timeframe from 1935-38. For acoustic blues of this vintage, the sound is pretty good, and the liner notes by Klaus Kilian and Hannes Folterbauer are illuminating.
The earliest 1935 recordings sampled are “Doctor’s Blues” and “What’s The Matter with My Milk Cow?” that feature Kansas City Bill Weldon with pianist Peetie Wheatstraw. With a style much like that of left-handed bottleneck guitarist James “Kokomo” Arnold, who recorded his own classic “Milk Cow Blues,” Weldon no doubt had an impact on western swing players of that day like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys who may’ve heard his music on the radio at that time. This album then includes about a dozen tracks of Casey Bill (occasionally referred to as the “Hawaiian Guitar Wizard”) paired with the likes of legendary pianist Black Bob and unknown string bass players. In 1935, Weldon had a hit with “Somebody Changed the Lock on that Door” that’s been covered by many. Other songs like “My Stove Won’t Work,” “Howlin’ Dog Blues,” “Let Me Be Your Butcher,” “Blues Everywhere I Go,” and “Casey Blues” stay true to his early sound with moderate tempo’ed hard-luck tales of life. His own self-penned “WPA Blues” and “Flood Water Blues” are illustrative examples of Weldon the songwriter.
At track 14, “Streamline Woman” (recorded in mid-1936), we start to hear Weldon recording not only with a pianist and bassist, but also with a second guitarist like Big Bill Broonzy perhaps to give the music more rhythmic drive. I particularly enjoyed songs like “The Big Boat” and “Can’t You Remember” from September, 1936 that added mandolinist Charlie McCoy to the effervescent musical mix. “Oh Red” is an interesting cut that gives us a sampling of clarinetist Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four (Casey Bill, Black Bob, Bill Broonzy and Bill Settles). Also a treat to hear are some 1937 recordings of Weldon with “his orchestra” although the band is basically a quintet.
With his warm vocals and spirited lap steel slides, Casey Bill Weldon was clearly one of the great raconteurs of the 1930s blues. And like Kokomo Arnold who last recorded in 1938 and said, “I’m finished with music and that mad way of life,” Casey Bill Weldon’s final recording, “Say Midnight Blues Last” was also in 1938. There’s little known about his whereabouts and activities after that. This set of music is a vital, and important, document of blues that laid groundwork for blues, and even music in some other genres, that followed. I’d also encourage listeners to check out Wolf Records’ other releases, especially among their Blues Classics, that sample artists from Delta-style blues to that of Atlanta, Piedmont School, Memphis, Brownsville and Chicago blues. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)