On Memorial Day this year, I was around Jackson, MS with a few hours to kill, so I did some driving around the area. About twenty miles south of Jackson is a little town called Raymond, where there's a Civil War battlefield park, a cemetery, a Mississippi Blues Trail marker (The McCoy Brothers....20's - 40's recording artists who wrote "Corrine, Corrina," "When The Levee Breaks," and "Why Don't You Do Right"), and The Little Big Store, a used record store located in the old depot building that I had not visited in ten years or more
The Little Big Store buys and sells albums, tapes, CDs, magazines, books, posters....just about anything music-related, and the store is packed from one end to the other with product. It's easy to spend several hours in there just looking around, overwhelmed at what's available. Well, I had a few hours, and it just happened to be open that day and I was the only one in there besides the owner, so I had the place to myself.
I thumbed through the albums for a bit, even though I don't even have a record player anymore. I just like to look at the covers and admire the creativity that went into producing them. There was a nice selection of books available from a number of musical genres, but I have so many to read right now, I didn't add to my stack.
I walked over to the blues CDs, not really looking for anything in particular, and started flipping through the five or six rows, which is a considerable improvement from the blues selection in the last few record stores I've stumbled across. The last time I'd been in The Little Big Store, there wasn't a lot of selection, but have mercy, that wasn't the case this time. I guess a lot of people now probably sell their CDs after converting them to digital format, but I had a lot of great ones to consider for purchase this time.
I finally settled on four, and at $5 apiece, I thought I got a steal for each one. I had been trying to locate some of them for a couple of years now and most were priced out of my range at places where I had looked....not tremendously expensive, but more than I wanted to pay for them. For example, I had checked online for a couple of these the night before and the lowest prices I found were about five times what I paid for them (plus overseas shipping). I thought I'd spend the next few weeks discussing each one of the treasures I found.
In the late 40's/early 50's, Sims was part of the Texas country blues scene along with Lightnin' Hopkins, Lil' Son Jackson, Smokey Hogg, and others. In Sims' All Music Guide bio, Bill Dahl wrote, "Sims developed a twangy, ringing electric guitar style that was irresistible on fast numbers and stung hard on the downbeat stuff." He first recorded for Blue Bonnet Records in the late 40's, then recorded a number of tracks for Specialty Records, one of which was "Lucy Mae Blues," the track he is probably best known for. In the late 50's, he joined Ace Records (Johnny Vincent's label) and recorded several sides. He passed away from pneumonia in 1970, at age 53.
The CD that I found this week was called Lucy Mae Blues, and it collects all of Sims' Specialty recordings, issued and unissued, from his singles, his one album, and a few alternate takes. In some ways, Sims reminds me of Hopkins, but his guitar playing is fairly unique and he sounds good on the upbeat songs and the more mellow tunes, too. He has a relaxed, almost soothing delivery. Some of my favorites include the title track, "Long Gone," "Walking Boogie (Part 4)," "Frankie's Blues," "I'll Get Along Somehow," and "Frankie Lee's 2 O'Clock Jump."
I'm not sure how much a lot of newer blues fans enjoy the early country blues sounds from Texas and Louisiana, and they don't always get as much play as the blues sounds from Mississippi, but it's a very enjoyable brand of blues. If you enjoy the swamp blues of Louisiana, well, the Texas/Louisiana country blues are pretty closely related. I was sort of a late arrival to these sounds, coming to appreciate Lightnin' Hopkins much later than I should have. Frankie Lee Sims fits nicely into that niche, and I wonder how much further he might have gone if he had been able to capitalize on the folk-blues revival of the early 60's, as Hopkins did.
Come back next week to check out another treasure from my Memorial Day excursion.