Cannon’s Jug Stompers: The Complete Works 1927–1930

Rating: 8.1/10
Rated as
: Collection
Compilation Status: Decent Overview
Released: 1992
Recorded: 1927–1930
Specific Genre: Jug Band
Main Genre: Blues, Acoustic Blues
Label: Yazoo

1 Minglewood Blues 2 Walk Right In 3 Going to Germany 4 Bring It With You When You Come 5 Bugle Call Rag 6 Prison Wall Blues 7 Feather Bed 8 Noah’s Blues 9 Wolf River Blues 10 Madison Street Rag 11 Viola Lee Blues 12 Cairo Rag 13 Last Chance Blues 14 Mule Get Up in the Alley 15 Pretty Mama Blues 16 Money Never Runs Out 17 Pig Ankle Strut 18 Jonestown Blues 19 The Rooster Crowing Blues 20 Hollywood Rag 21 Heart Breakin‘ Blues 22 Ripley Blues 23 Tired Chicken Blues 24 Big Railroad Blues

Played around the little town, your head chock full of rum

Jug band blues is an odd hybrid of folksy and urban, ragtime-y, jazzy and country blues elements. The reverbarting, murmuring sound of the jug, the rattling banjo and dominating harp make for an overall make-shift street corner atmosphere. Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers were among the most successful and – since some of their numbers became blues standards as well as pop hits for other, much later artists – endurig combos for this comparatively small and short-lived genre. It’s restricted, free-wheeling sound is removed from deep blues through the hustling, bustling city sound it had to dwell in – playful, hurried, sketchy, but always amiable and slightly mischievous. There’s little here in terms of melody or heavy emotion, but the shaggy underdog attitude makes more than up for it, at least when consumed in slight doses – this is about entertainment, presented by next-door-rascals – their lyrics often revolve around trouble with small town judges for petty crimes. As one of the quintessential outfits of this sound, the Jug Stompers are among the quintessential roots of urban blues, there is a strict need to have their material, even if you mostly find yourself listening to the odd grumbling of «Viola Lee Blues» or the tumbling, hungover «Minglewood Blues» every so often. Good stuff.

As for this particular collection, here’s from my series of «consumer guide reviews», so to speak:

Gus Cannon recorded 26 sides (as in 13 singles) with the Jug Stompers. While the vinyl version (Yazoo 1989) of this CD contained all 13 sides plus the solo material Cannon recorded as Banjo Joe, this CD-reissue only contains tracks by the Jug Stompers and is even missing 2 of their sides («Riley’s Wagon» and «Springdale Blues»).

If you want to avoid tedious holes in your collection and get the real deal (that is, Cannon’s solo stuff plus the Jug Stompers catalogue), you’ll need to get Gus Cannon’s Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order: Volume 1 and theComplete Recorded Works in Chronological Order: Volume 2 (credited to Gus Cannon & Noah Lewis) by the Document Records label: They have all of it and some more side stuff, so they are the definite CD-picks. If you then get Cannon’s revival record Walk Right In from 1963, you’re about set.

Having said that, when this came out, it was the most complete Jug Stompers compilation on a single CD – which it remains until today. All the other single disc compilations claiming to be complete have less track than this one. If you want an overview of how to acquire the complete recordings of Cannon and his Jug Stompers, compare my list Complete Blues Discographies: What to Get.