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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Low Down Papa

Delmark DE 813



1. Moanin' The Blues
2. It's All Over Now
3. Have Mercy
4. Dyin' With The Blues
5. Graveyard Bound
6. Corn Trimmers
7. That's Your Yass, Yass, Yass
8. The Bye Bye Blues
9. Five O'Clock Stomp
10. Houston Blues
11. Gotta Be Booked Blues
12. I Wish You Would
13. I'm Going Away Just To Wear You Off My Mind
14. Gulf Coast Blues
15. You're Always Messin' Round With My Man
16. Low Down Papa
17. Jelly's Blues
18. He May Be Your Man
19. Joe Oliver Blues
20. You Shall Reap What You Sow

Clarence "Jelly" Johnson - Piano


There is something special about music on a piano roll. It seems to capture perfectly the atmosphere of the era when it was recorded - and the sound is clearer than on a disc because the roll can be fed through a player piano and recorded in stereo without scratches or clicks.

This album consists of recordings from 20 piano rolls made in the 1920s by Clarence "Jelly" Johnson. Little is known about Johnson but he was based in Chicago and accompanied many singers there and in New York, as well as recording piano rolls in both cities. In the late twenties, he moved from Chicago to Detroit, where he led small bands at various clubs.

Clarence played stride piano, especially performing blues tunes, enhanced by the sort of decorative touches that stride pianists often used. Some tracks also use boogie-woogie rhythms.

His clean touch ensures that these recordings are clear and are a pleasure to hear. The only problem is that most of the tunes he plays are at a mid-tempo which you might call a foxtrot. So, despite the tempo picking up slightly for tracks 13 to 16, there is a danger of sameyness which is only held at bay by Johnson's inventiveness and rhythmic feeling. But there is no better way of transporting yourself back to the roaring twenties.

Tony Augarde

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