Most musician’s fans wait for their favorite artist’s new material and eagerly run to the store to get it as soon as it comes out. 1930s recording artist Blind Blake had such fans, but unlike many musicians, 70 years after he disappeared without a trace, he still has fans around the world.
So it was with surprise and joy I learned that a rare 78 rpm record had been found–the only known copy of some of Blind Blake’s final recordings. These were two of the legendary ‘lost’ sessions, songs that had not been heard since the 1930s. The recording company’s list of releases contained more than one disc that had never been found by blues aficionados, who had scoured the south for old 78s–thinking they’d found everything decades ago. Old Hat Records has an article on their site explaining how they came to possess a trunk full of well preserved vinyl (or more likely cheap shellac that was used on ‘race’ records–the records issued at the time for the African-American market). The trunk contained almost 100 records, including some fine rare specimens by well-known artists like Skip James and Memphis Minnie, as well as obscure players. Much of the material is from the final days of the pre-war blues’ golden era. The rarest find was Paramount 13123 by Blind Blake.
The two songs, A and B sides of a recording issued in 1932, were among the last Blake recorded. “Night and Day” and “Sun to Sun“, hosted at the prewarblues.com blog, are not the best sides by guitar master Blake. There is little known about his life or how he died, but it is assumed alcohol and the disadvantages of being blind and confined by segregation to a narrow market made it impossible for him to sustain himself. In any case, on these tracks he sounds less assertive, less in control, and his singing about ‘hard luck’ seems to lack the defiance of his early work. If these were the only Blake recordings, he would still be considered a phenomenon, with some excellent guitar playing in passages, even if the overall performances are below his own average. There’s a extra depth of melancholy and poignancy to these songs. despite the jaunty, double-time guitar rag passages that punctuate the arrangements. Blake–previously the confident, hip blues-man–sounds more than ever like a man who really has the blues.