Year of the Blues Images calendar, 2010

“This Old World’s In A Hell Of A Fix,” a 1931 sermon by Rev. Dr. J. Gordon McPherson, called “The Black Billy Sunday,” gives title and theme to the 7th annual Blues Images wall calendar, complete with artwork from the collectible Paramount and Brunswick “race records” of the late ’20s and early ’30s. The package includes a cd of 18 deep blues from back in the day, including two unreleased sides featuring guitarist Blind Blake and rarities by Papa Charlie Jackson and Henry Townsend, among others. 


I’ve enjoyed this item created by blues 78 collector John Tefteller, who was written up along with other 78-collecting fanatics in the NYTimes a couple weeks back, for its reminders of American cultural history and notation of dates including Mardi Gras, Purim and the start of Daylight Savings Time as well as birth and/or death anniversaries for everybody from the still famous (Bessie Smith, b. April 15, 1984) to the eternally obscure (Jaydee Short, b. Dec. 26, 1902). The unpretentious but telling sepia drawings that graced original advertising for the 78s and now the calendar provide a picture of life that’s distinctly different from what we know now  (a man burying his mule to specifics of a voodoo ritual) but very recognizable, too (a woman at a table with an empty bottle before her, brooding clouds of thought big as a bouffant ‘do). Some of the songs have been reissued on Yazoo anthologies, but if you don’t have those, here’s another chance to discover Robert Wilkins, Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ida Cox, the Mississippi Sheiks and diverse other ancestors of rap, rock and soul. 

Introductory notes make a connection between “two economic collapses” — the ’30s Great Depression and the ’00’s Great Recession. Tefteller writes, “Yes, we now have an African American president but, unfortunately, so far, it appears that once again the very poorest Americans are the last to get real help.” He cites the Katrina flood and the Wall Street bailout, and mentions this may be the last Blues calendar, as “we have slashed production on tis year’s calendar and if business does not pick up, we will not be producing a 2011 edition.” He boasts a “rock solid base of supporters” but claims “the biggest problem is getting this calendar into stores so that new people can find it and buy it.” Understandably, this may the month-and-day keeper for everybody; except for the cd, it has no digital parts. But if you would contemplate the past from our moment in the present . . . I’m doing my part to get out the word there’s a new year a’comin’. 
“Yes, this old world is in a hell of a fix and we are all in it together,” Tefteller concludes. “Enjoy a brief break from all the bad news out there and listen to some low down Blues by the masters. . . ” These bluesmen and women knew how to roll with the punches. Sing it out — express yourself. That often makes things a little better.
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