Hard Life Blues

Lanham. What the hell kind of name is that? I've never met another outside my immediate family with the last name Lanham. I hear there is a Lanham, Maryland. Don't know anyone that's ever been.

Ever heard of Roy Lanham ? Me either. I saw his record at Kim's on St. Mark's and decided I'd be true to my nomenclature and slap down the 12 bucks for the record. The cover had a 40's Country-Western look to it, a period and style I am very fond of, so how could I go wrong.

First of all, I want to do a shout out to the Bloodshot Revival/Soundies labels for putting this beautiful compilation together. 31 tracks in length, all of which previously unreleased, Roy Lanham and the Whippoorwills "Hard Life Blues" is an unexpected gem. This wonderful band was producing and writing music in the mid Forties and the Fifties that is still relevant today.

Roy Lanham and the Whippoorwills are a hard band to categorize. The country swing of Bob Wills is what will immediately come to mind, but Lanham seems to be equally influenced by jazz guitarist Django Rheinhardt. And showcasing the beautiful vocals of front woman Juanita Vastine (AKA Sweet Georgia Brown) the band even experimented with pop jazz. Whatever category you lump this this genre-bending group into one question will linger in your mind, how has such an extraordinary group gone virtually unheard of for so long?

The answer is simple I suppose, they never had a hit record. More remembered as a studio player for the likes of Roy Rogers, The Sons of the Pioneers, and Merle Travis, Lanham's talent is but a dim memory to most. Roy Lanham and the Whippoorwills are most fondly remembered by fans of Country and Western, but ironically the band always considered themselves jazz players. A third of the tracks on "Hard Life Blues" are instrumentals showcasing the virtuoso of Lanham on the guitar and most of the vocal driven numbers feature extended guitar solos that were fairly uncommon for the period outside of the genre of jazz.

Thirteen of the tracks on "Hard Life Blues" were written by Lanham, demonstrating his talent as a song writer as well, but memorable favorites by the likes of Gene Autry ("Tweedle O' Twill"), Duke Ellington ("I Got it Bad, and that Ain't Good"), and Bob Wills ("Stay A Little Longer") are additional highlights.

Look for additional titles by Bloodshot Revival/Soundies who will be releasing similar forgotten artists in the future.

--Robert Lanham

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