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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Whosoever Will, Let Him Come - Eugene Rhodes

If there is a more obscure country blues artist than this fellow, then he is probably locked up somewhere, as well, one hastens to add, because that was the situation when blues scholar Bruce Jackson first discovered Eugene Rhodes. He was doing a ten- to 25-year stretch at the Indiana State Prison, which was where a remarkable album was recorded of 15 songs and a little talking that was eventually released on a label even more obscure than the bluesman, if such a thing is possible. By the time Rhodes was discovered, he seemed like he was in his late 50s and apparently nervously dispaired "them old alley blues" that nobody wanted to hear anymore now that all the public wanted was jazz. His opinions as expressed to his recording producer do well in indicating his cultural isolation as a prisoner, because he was apparently unaware of the huge white audience for country blues that existed in the '60s, a time when an elderly black gent with a slide on his finger would be considered "cool," although it is unsure whether that judgment would extend all the way to the tough-looking prisoner pictured in grimy black and white on the cover of his album Talkin' 'Bout My Time. In the '20s and '30s, Rhodes had traveled through the south as a one-man band, including a harmonica rack with a special mount on the side for a horn, a foot pedal powered drum, and of course, a guitar. He reportedly played in the Dallas area, where he claims to have met Blind Lemon Jefferson. He also crossed paths with Blind Boy Fuller in the Carolinas and Buddy Moss in Georgia, the effects of his traveling adventures turning into seasonings in which the spirits of musical influences are nimbly suggested in his own picking. Although the history of the blues contains several happy tales of prisoners set back out into the world based on their brilliant performances, the release of this artist's album had no such result. He also seems not to have left much of a trail after being released from prison, if he ever was. He is not the same Eugene Rhodes who was the "singing minister" behind the album I Don't Need a Reason. by Eugene Chadbourne  

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