Papa George Lightfoot – Natchez Trace (1969)

originalfrontcover1Thanks to a handful of terrific 1950s sides, the name of Papa Lightfoot was spoken in hushed and reverent tones by 1960s blues aficionados. Then, producer Steve LaVere tracked down the elusive harp master in Natchez, cutting an album for Vault in 1969 that announced to the world that Lightfoot was still wailing like a wildman on the mouth organ. Alas, his comeback was short-lived; he died in 1971 of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

Sessions for Peacock in 1949 (unissued), Sultan in 1950, and Aladdin in 1952 preceded an amazing 1954 date for Imperial in New Orleans that produced Lightfoot’s “Mean Old Train,” “Wine Women Whiskey” (comprising his lone single for the firm) and an astonishing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Lightfoot’s habit of singing through his harp microphone further coarsened his already rough-hewn vocals, while his harp playing was simply shot through with endless invention. Singles for Savoy in 1955 and Excello the next year (the latter billed him as “Ole Sonny Boy”) closed out Lightfoot’s ’50s recording activities, setting the stage for his regrettably brief comeback in 1969. (by Bill Dahl)

One of the finest of southern juke joint bluesmen, Papa George Lightfoot’s music was totally untainted by the folk and blues revivals of the late 50s and mid-60s. Born Alexander Lightfoot in Natchez on March 2, 1924, the Deep South harmonica player and singer recorded for Peacock, Aladdin, Imperial and Savoy. His 1954 Imperial side papageorgelightfoot01Wine,Women,Whiskey was later issued in England in 1969 as a single on Liberty. Later that same year, Lightfoot was tracked down by Steve La Vere and recorded at the new Malaco studio in Jackson, Mississippi on 21st July 1969. The session was originally released as “Natchez Trace” by Vault Records of California and saw almost simultaneous release in the UK on Liberty Records. Among the sides is New Mean Old Train, an updated version of Mean Old Train, a song Lightfoot recorded earlier for both Imperial and Savoy. “Goin’ Back To The Natchez Trace” presents the earlier LP together with 5 previously unissued tracks and an extended spoken monologue. The recordings have been completely restored from original analogue master tapes, the sound quality vastly improved upon and the music totally remixed by Vie Keary at Chiswick Reach Studio, London, on valve equipment. If you previously knew this LP when it was available on either Vault, Liberty or Crosscut, you are in for a big (and pleasant) surprise. Papa George is accompanied by a fine little group including soul man Tommy Tate on drums, Carson Whitsett on piano, Jerry Puckett on guitar and Ron Johnson on bass. Following the album’s release he appeared at the famous Ann Arbor, Michigan Blues Festival in 1970 but, before he could capitalise on his turn of fortune, he died suddenly on 28th November, 1971 at Natchez Charity Hospital. “Goin’ Back To The Natchez Trace” stands as a testament to his music and to the kind of Deep South blues now long gone.

This is one of the blues harmonica Albums I´ve ever heard ! A real forgotten hero of the Blues !

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Personnel:
Ron Johnson (bass)
Papa George Lightfoot (vocals, harmonica
Jerry Puckett (guitar)
Tommy Tate (drums)
Carson Whitsett (piano)

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Tracklist:
01  My Woman Is Tired Of Me Lyin’ (Lightfoot) 7.08
02. New Mean Old Train (Lightfoot) 3.30
03. Love Me Baby (Lightfoot) 5.15
04. Goin’ Down That Muddy Road (Lightfoot/LaVere) 4.17
05. Ah, Come On Honey (Lightfoot) 4.08
06. I Heard Somebody Cryin’ (Lightfoot) 4.21
07. Take It Witcha (Lightfoot) 4.11
08. Nighttime (Lightfoot) 6.05

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