Blind Willie McTell – Atlanta Twelve String

Born in Thompson, Georgia, United States in 1898, Blind Willie McTell is one of many blues artists who have influenced modern music today. He played a twelve string guitar and recorded 149 songs in a 29 year period between 1927 and 1956. This album contains songs recorded in his second to last recording session in November 1949, the last session taking place 7 years later in 1956.

When listening to certain tracks on this album you can really hear who he has influenced in todays music. If you listen to the vocals on ‘Motherless Children Have A Hard Time’ you can hear Jack White from a mile out. White has mentioned McTell as a big influence and the same track was also covered by Eric Clapton on his 1974 album ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’.

  1. Kill It Kid
  2. Razor Ball
  3. Little Delia
  4. Broke Down Engine Blues
  5. Dying Crapshooter’s Blues
  6. Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie
  7. Blues Around Midnight
  8. Last Dime Blues
  9. On The Cooling Board
  10. Motherless Children Have A Hard Time
  11. I Got To Cross The River Jordan
  12. You Got To Die
  13. Ain’t It Grand To Be A Christian
  14. Pearly Gates
  15. Soon This Morning

‘Motherless Children Have A Hard Time’ is my favourite track and contains fantastic slide guitar playing and haunting lyrics. People often look back and wish they could have witnessed certain things in history and I would loved to have been present when McTell recorded these songs in Atlanta. ‘Ain’t It Grand To Be A Christian’ again combines stunning guitar and vocals, often at different tempos. Playing the blues like McTell did and singing at the same time was an extremely difficult thing to do, Robert Johnson was also a master at this. A few years ago Eric Clapton covered a Johnson song with different tempos in and he mentioned it took him weeks to learn the one song studying it for hours and hours every single day.

The opening track ‘Kill It Kid’ showcases McTell’s intricate guitar abilities as do ‘Razor Ball’ and ‘Little Delia’. For those who have played a twelve string guitar, you’ll know it’s more difficult to bend notes as you’re actually bending two strings at the same time. But McTell was a master, and he no doubt worked on this technique for years. ‘Broke Down Engine Blues’ is a stunning blues number and if you shut your eyes you can imagine yourself sat in an American music joint in the 1930’s listening to it. ‘Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie’ sounds very modern even in todays music world, so just imagine how it sounded in Atlanta in 1949. Superb!

The remaining tracks on the album are just as fantastic as the ones I’ve mentioned above. If you’re a fan of the blues then you need to have this album in your collection because it contains some of the best blues recordings that you’ll ever hear. Considering all the tracks were probably recorded in a hotel room using one mic, the results are superb. A lot of blues recordings at this time in history are quite grainy but these aren’t. And if you like this album then delve back into McTell’s previous recording sessions and you’ll come across more fantastic songs like ‘Statesboro Blues’ and ‘Stomp Down River’ which are other essential blues songs to have. Enjoy!


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