CHAMPION JACK DUPREE Blues From The Gutter (Doxy)
Champion Jack Dupree’s kind of blues is, as the title of this, his 1958 debut album, might suggest, rough and raucous, the sort of style you might suppose arises from years spent trying to be heard over the noise of a juke joint being reduced to smashed glass and firewood around him. The song titles neatly summarise his mainly medical or medicinal concerns – “T.B. Blues”, “Can’t Kick The Habit”, “Junker’s Blues”, “Bad Blood” – although he puts enough of himself into “Frankie & Johnny” and “Stack-O-Lee” to feel justified in claiming authorship. This music is rough, sickly and battered, but it can still rouse itself for the occasional spin around the sawdust-coated dancefloor such as “Nasty Boogie”. Ennis Lowery’s stinging electric guitar work sounds like it’s out on parole – and apparently influenced the young Brian Jones – whilst Dupree himself plays barrelhouse piano in an emphatic manner, almost like his style is descended from that of silent movie accompanists.
The mysterious Doxy Music seem to have built a catalogue almost entirely on 50+-year-old recordings that have fallen into the public domain, pressing them on 180 grams of wind-tunnel-quiet grams of “HQ virgin vinyl”. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, there’s very little chance that their reissues have been hewn from anything so quaintly old-fashioned as a master tape, and consequently their sound quality ranges from barely acceptable (the record under discussion) to wretched (their reissue of “Here’s Little Richard” that I can probably be found whingeing about elsewhere in this issue). On the other hand, although I’d rather be giving my money to a company that might actually do right by these historic recordings, the sad fact is that original label Atlantic have absolutely no interest in selling me a shiny new vinyl issue of “Blues From The Gutter”, which rather leaves the field open to anyone who can be bothered.