Blues, Rags & Hollers

Koerner, Ray & Glover

1963: Red House Records / Elektra RHR CD 76

  1. Linin’ Track
  2. Ramblin’ Blues
  3. It’s All Right
  4. Hangman
  5. Ted Mack Rag
  6. Down to Louisiana
  7. Creepy John
  8. Bugger Burns
  9. Sun’s Wail
  10. Dust My Broom
  11. One Kind Favor
  12. Go Down Ol’ Hannah
  13. Good Time Charlie
  14. Banjo Thing
  15. Stop That Thing
  16. Too Bad
  17. Snaker’s Here
  18. Low Down Rounder
  19. Jimmy Bell
  20. Mumblin’ Word

As a child I knew this recording of “Linin’ Track” because my father had an LP by the name of Folksong ’65 which featured it (track #3 there, right after Tom Rush’s “Long John” and Judy Collins’s “So Early, Early in the Spring”—both excellent in setting the tone of the album), and I unconsciously loved it. Had no idea whether the singers were white or black or original or performing something from an established source, because I had no context for any of that to register or matter (aside from maybe black mens’ voices having a certain sound different from that of white mens’, but even that was, and is, often illusory). Hearing this compilation, I’ve cautiously found (over time) that they sound so original-sounding in their delivery of these songs that frankly I’m surprised to recall that they’re three white guys.

(I also love the way one of them described their “group” as perhaps better being called “Sometimes Koerner and Sometimes Ray and Sometimes Glover,” in [I think it was] the 1986 documentary on them.)

I don’t really have any desire to critically assess every track on this album (and as a compilation of recordings it does add up to a bit much of a certain sound, so it’s perhaps best taken in parcels rather than as a whole if it’s to be truly appreciated), but “Bugger Burns,” “Banjo Thing,” “Good Time Charlie,” “Too Bad,” and of course “Linin’ Track” are probably my favorite tracks. In fact I love pretty much every track; those are just ones I happen to call out in a quick skimming.

“Go Down Old Hannah” is a standout in its own category, though—its only accompinment being a foot tapping. That is some arrestingly bare-bones musical theatre, with a killer vocal.