Friday, December 18, 2009

Kokomo Arnold - The Original "Milk Cow Blues"

Kokomo Arnold - Kokomo Arnold Vol. 1 (1930-1935)

Album: Kokomo Arnold Vol. 1 (1930-1935)
Styles: Country Blues
Released: 1994
Label: Document
File: mp3@192K/s
Size: 104.2 MB
Time: 75:52
Art: Front

1. Front Door Blues [3:24]
2. Sagefied Woman Blues [3:04]
3. Old Black Cat Blues (Jinx Blues) [3:25]
4. Sissy Man Blues [3:10]
5. Back Door Blues [3:25]
6. The Twelves (Dirty Dozens) [3:13]
7. Feels So Good [3:16]
8. Milk Cow Blues #2 [3:09]
9. Biscuit Roller Blues [3:14]
10. Slop Jar Blues [3:00]
11. Black Annie [3:01]
12. Chain Gang Blues [3:05]
13. Monday Morning Blues [3:04]
14. How Long How Long Blues [3:15]
15. Things 'Bout Coming My Way [2:48]
16. You Should Not A 'Done It (Gettin' It Fixed) [3:16]
17. Lonesome Southern Blues [3:05]
18. Black Money Blues [3:07]
19. Hobo Blues [3:11]
20. Rainy Night Blues [2:58]
21. Paddlin' Madeline Blues [3:19]
22. Milk Cow Blues [3:11]
23. Old Original Kokomo Blues [2:54]
24. Back To The Woods [3:06]

All of Kokomo Arnold's 1930s recordings have been made available on four Document CDs. Vol. 1 features the singer/guitarist on two songs from 1930 (recorded in Memphis, TN, as Gitfiddle Jim") and then the first 22 selections that he cut in Chicago during 1934-1935, two of which were previously unreleased. Best known is "Milk Cow Blues," but the memorable and sometimes haunting blues singer also performs such numbers as "Old Original Kokomo Blues," "Front Door Blues," "Back Door Blues," "Chain Gang Blues," and "Hobo Blues." Blues collectors will definitely want all four CDs in this perfectly done series.

"Kokomo" was a popular brand of coffee early in the 20th century, and was the subject of Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell's first recorded blues in 1928. When slide guitar specialist James Arnold revamped this number as "Old Original Kokomo Blues" for Decca in 1934, little did he know that this would soon become his permanent handleKokomo Arnold.

Kokomo Arnold was born in Georgia, and began his musical career in Buffalo, New York in the early '20s. During prohibition, Kokomo Arnold worked primarily as a bootlegger, and performing music was a only sideline to him. Nonetheless he worked out a distinctive style of bottleneck slide guitar and blues singing that set him apart from his contemporaries. In the late '20s, Arnold settled for a short time in Mississippi, making his first recordings in May 1930 for Victor in Memphis under the name of "Gitfiddle Jim." Arnold moved to Chicago in order to be near to where the action was as a bootlegger, but the repeal of the Volstead Act put him out of business, so he turned instead to music as a full-time vocation.

From his first Decca session of September 10, 1934 until he finally called it quits after his session of May 12, 1938, Kokomo Arnold made 88 sides under his own name for Decca, which rejected only nine of them — two of the rejected titles have since been recovered. On some sides he was joined on piano by Peetie Wheatstraw, although most of Kokomo Arnold's records were made solo. Arnold also played guitar on two tunes cut in July 1936 by Oscar's Chicago Swingers, a dance band led by singer Sam Theard. Judging from the overall size of his recorded output, you might suspect that he was a success as a recording artist, and this was true; along with Peetie Wheatstraw and Amos Easton (Bumble Bee Slim), Kokomo Arnold was a predominant figure among blues singers in the Decca Race catalogues of the 1930s. He was also well-known as a live performer as well, appearing mainly in Chicago, but also on at least a couple of occasions in New York.

Some of Kokomo Arnold's songs proved highly influential on other musicians. His first issued coupling on Decca 7026 paired "Old Original Kokomo Blues" with "Milk Cow Blues." Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson must've known this record, as he re-invented both sides of it into songs for his own use — "Old Original Kokomo Blues" became "Sweet Home Chicago," and "Milk Cow Blues" became "Milkcow's Calf Blues." "Milk Cow Blues" ultimately proved of use, more or less, in its original form with some "real gone" modifications, to another artist a little further down the line: Elvis Presley.

As for Kokomo Arnold himself, he quit the music business in disgust in 1938 and went into factory work in Chicago. He was rediscovered there by blues researchers in 1962, but didn't show much enthusiasm for reviving his musical career, and certainly did not resume recording. Kokomo Arnold died of a heart attack at the age of 67.

Some blues pundits have drawn a direct qualitative value between Peetie Wheatstraw and Kokomo Arnold, with Arnold coming out on top. There was a popular re-issue album in the 1960s featuring eight songs by each artist which seemed to support this conclusion. This has no real relevance however; although they were personally acquainted and recorded together, Kokomo Arnold and Peetie Wheatstraw were really working different ends of the 1930s blues spectrum. Their main connection to one another is their combined influence on Robert Johnson, and in this respect Wheatstraw seems to have had the upper hand.

PW: Klipkop


Kokomo Arnold - Kokomo Arnold Vol. 2 (1935-1936)

Album: Kokomo Arnold Vol. 2 (1935-1936)
Styles: Country Blues
Released: 1994
Label: Document
File: mp3@VBR ~182K/s
Size: 89.0 MB
Time: 67:28
Art: Front and back

1. The Honey Dripper [2:49]
2. Southern Railroad Blues [3:02]
3. Bo Weavil Blues [3:06]
4. Busy Bootin' [2:29]
5. Let Your Money Talk [2:50]
6. 'Cause You're Dirty [3:03]
7. Tonic Head Blues [2:51]
8. Policy Wheel Blues [2:57]
9. Traveling Rambler Blues [2:57]
10. Stop, Look and Listen [3:07]
11. Doin' the Doopididy [2:59]
12. The Mule Laid Down and Died [2:55]
13. Big Leg Mama (John Russell Blues) [2:43]
14. Milk Cow Blues, No. 3 [2:52]
15. Milk Cow Blues, No. 4 [2:56]
16. Down and Out Blues [3:05]
17. Model "T" Woman Blues [2:57]
18. Jet Black Snake [3:22]
19. I'll Be up Someday [3:07]
20. I Can't Get Enough of That Stuff [2:39]
21. Desert Blues [2:55]
22. Bull Headed Woman Blues [2:56]
23. Sundown Blues [2:42]

PW: Klipkop


Kokomo Arnold - Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 (1936-1937)

Album: Kokomo Arnold Vol. 3 (1936-1937)
Styles: Country Blues
Released: 1994
Label: Document
File: mp3@VBR ~182K/s
Size: 86.1 MB
Time: 66:19
Art: Full

1. Laugh and Grin Blues [3:09]
2. Grass Cutter Blues (Alice Moore, vcl.) [2:56]
3. Telephone Blues (Alice Moore, vcl.) [2:57]
4. Dark Angel (Alice Moore, vcl.) [3:09]
5. Money Tree Man (Alice Moore, vcl.) [3:05]
6. Delmar Avenue ('signifying' Mary Johnson, vcl.) [3:05]
7. I'm Going Fishing, Too (Alice Moore, vcl.) [3:07]
8. Three Men (Alice Moore, vcl.) [3:11]
9. Shake That Thing [2:40]
10. Try Some of That (Oscar's Chicago Swingers) [2:59]
11. My Gal's Been Foolin' Me (Oscar's Chicago Swingers) [2:42]
12. Running Drunk Again [3:09]
13. Coffin Blues [3:18]
14. Lonesome Road Blues [2:59]
15. Mister Charlie [2:44]
16. Backfence Picket Blues [3:07]
17. Fool Man Blues [3:07]
18. Long and Tall [2:47]
19. Salty Dog [2:50]
20. Cold Winter Blues [3:12]
21. Sister Jane Cross the Hall [2:40]
22. Wild Water Blues [3:14]

PW: Klipkop
Another invaluable offering from the blues archivists at Document, Kokomo Arnold's Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 3 (1936-1937) compiles 22 performances, recorded between May 1936 and March 1937. Despite the inclusions of a few Arnold classics, including "Dark Angel" and "Wild Water Blues," the disc is a mixed blessing. The combination of a long running time, chronological sequencing, and poor fidelity make for a difficult listen. While serious blues listeners won't have a problem with any of these factors, beginners are advised to look elsewhere first.


Kokomo Arnold - Kokomo Arnold Vol. 4 (1937-1938)

Album: Kokomo Arnold Vol. 4 (1937-1938)
Styles: Country Blues
Released: 1994
Label: Document
File: mp3@VBR ~166K/s
Size: 77.5 MB
Time: 63:19
Art: Full

1. Something's Hot [2:34]
2. Mean Old Twister [2:59]
3. Red Beans and Rice [3:05]
4. Set Down Gal [2:43]
5. Big Ship Blues [3:09]
6. Crying Blues [2:59]
7. Grandpa Got Drunk [3:05]
8. Black Mattie [3:12]
9. Neck Bone Blues [2:52]
10. Buddy Brown Blues (Rolling Time) [2:55]
11. Rocky Road Blues [2:46]
12. Head Cutting Blues [2:57]
13. Broke Man Blues [2:54]
14. Back On The Job [3:01]
15. Shine On,Moon(Shine On,Shine On) [2:54]
16. Your Ways And Actions [2:47]
17. Tired of Running From Door To Door [2:38]
18. My Well Is Dry [2:41]
19. Midnight Blues [2:50]
20. Goin' Down in Galilee (Swing Along With Me) [2:29]
21. Bad Luck Blues [2:50]
22. Kid Man Blues [2:48]

PW: Klipkop
Like its predecessors, the final volume in Document's Complete Recorded Works series alternates a few excellent performances with many more additions intended for collectors only. Drawn from Kokomo Arnold's last few sessions, from the 14-month period between March 1937 and May 1938, the collection does include a few classics, like "Mean Old Twister" and "Red Beans and Rice." Still, many of the rest are period material with poor fidelity, of only marginal interest to most blues fans.

(To download, click on links to original On muddy Sava riverbank blogpostings.)

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