(House of Blues)
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 1998, Volume 5, #7
Written by John Metzger
Defiance Blues contains fifteen songs recorded between 1929 and 1996, each of which serves as a prime example of the powerful protests and angered voices of the African-American community. The tunes tackle topics from brutality to politics to education to poverty, and they make a clear connection to the rap music of today. In many old blues songs, the protests were hidden through the use of lyrical metaphors, but the selections here are straight-forward and brutally honest. On Backlash Blues, recorded in 1967, Nina Simone passionately sings, "You raise my taxes, freeze my wages, and send my son to Vietnam. Do you think that your colored folks are second-class fools?"
Some of the best tracks on Defiance Blues are the oldest: Leadbelly's haunting Bourgeois Blues, John Byrd's gospel-tinged That White Mule of Sin, and Lewis Allan's Strange Fruit as sung by Billie Holiday. Also included are selections from Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Junior Wells. The music industry forever has ignored many of these songs due to their subject matter, and it's nice to see them finally find more widespread distribution on the House of Blues label. One can only hope that future releases will continue to shed light on these oft-forgotten classics by bringing them to a new audience.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box