From the Record Shelves #146

I Keep the Blues

LP Yazoo L-1036

We see them on the football ground and sometimes hear them in music performances; couples that work so fine together, where they seem to know each step that the other is going to take in advance. Like Oliver and Armstrong, like Venuti and Lang, and here’s another one that started recording together in 1928.

When Leroy Carr (1905-1935) died in Indianapolis, where he had most of his career, he left a large body of work in recordings behind, together with Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell.

Carr that came from Nashville played piano in an efficient way and had a fine voice. One of the things that I appreciate regarding the early bluesmen is their honesty, they just sing the best they can and doesn’t strive to sound dirty. If the voice is sometimes rough, it’s natural. He also wrote some blues songs that became standards within the genre, like In the Evening and Midnight Hour Blues.

Scrapper was a guitarist and singer that had ambitions to make a solo career, and certainly had the capacity to do so, but he only recorded sparingly his own material and is best known for the duets with Carr. Both men had an addiction to alcohol. When they met, Blackwell was a bootlegger that sold liquor to Carr. The drinking was the cause of Carr’s early demise. After that, Scrapper Blackwell disappeared from the music scene but was rediscovered in the late fifties. In the mist of resuming his career, he was shot dead in a mugging in 1962 at the age of 59.

Their collaboration is a milestone, pioneering the urban blues style. The LP has a compilation covering some songs in medium tempo where they sing humorous lyrics in unison, a popular song by Irving Berlin and straight slow blues like the chosen one.

I hear a sincerity and very distinct playing on this track, with small details in the chord progressions for variation.

In the lyrics the blues is, as often, treated like a person.

About four this mornin’, blues came in my door
Please, Mister Blues, don’t come here no more.