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Desperate Man Blues: Discovering the Roots of American Music (Dust-to-Digital)

7 December 2006

This is the soundtrack to a documentary movie about diehard record collector JOE BUSSARD that’s being simultaneously released on DVD. As he says, “You can thank old time record collectors for the music that is left because the record companies didn’t give a damn about any of that stuff. They threw all the stampers out.”

And, in fact, there is a record here, the first recording of “Stack O’ Lee Blues” (1927), by CLEVE REED and HARVEY HULL, that Bussard owns the only known copy of. Most of the items here are obscure; even the ones that aren’t – the CARTER FAMILY’s “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man,” ROBERT JOHNSON’s “Cross Road Blues,” four to six others – are mastered from Bussard’s own copies, and thus sound marginally different, sonically speaking. And the version of SON HOUSE’s “Death Letter Blues” is not House’s familiar record, but taken from a film of him performing.

With 10 of the 19 tracks probably new to all but the most dedicated collectors, this is a very special musical grab bag.