Second Coming of a Delta Blues Legend

tiring the folk revival of the early sixties, musicologists were able to track down several Delta bluesmen using clues culled from their original recordings, made decades earlier. One of the foremost of these musicians was Bukka White, a slide player who ranked near Robert Johnson for virtuosity, existential terror, and raucous good times. Out of music and in obscurity when he was rediscovered, in 1963, White hit the coffeehouse circuit with a strong sense of gratitude and his talent still intact at the comparatively young age of fifty-four (he lived until 1977). This aspect of White’s career is now documented on 1963 Isn ‘t 1962 (Adelphi/ Genes Blues Vault), re-_ corded live in Berkeley on November 10 and 11, 1963. The slide guitar is especially appropriate for the expression of humor or fear, and here White was plainly more interested in laughs—complaining about women who left grease stains on his pillow in “Vaseline Head Woman,”for example. In tales both tall and small (sometimes even surreal) his lyrical gift shines as clear today as when it inspired Rob Dylan to record White’s “Fixin’ to Die” on his first album. A big man, who played a National steel guitar because wooden instruments crumbled in his hands, White had a booming voice that shattered not glass so much as entire continents. To hear him in top form, enthused to have an audience for the first time in years, is trulv invigorating. Also worth tracking down: The Complete Bukka White (Columbia/Legacy’), a collection of his original recordings, which is more reflective of his eerie side, and Mississippi Blues (Takoma), his first studio album after being rediscovered. —C.M ,Y.