I am naturally a collector. Hockey cards as a kid, stamps and coins as a young adult and for the last 20 years, music. Anyone who collects by nature is always looking for that hidden gem, the elusive rookie card, rare stamp / coin or that special song from days gone by.

Putumayo Presents Blues Café is just that, that fabulous collection of hidden gems and elusive tracks that fuel the desire, that sonic journey that is at the heart of the love of music.

This is more than just a CD. It is more than just a mind-blowing collection of blues legends and new discoveries from the Mississippi Delta and beyond. It is Putumayo’s first official collaboration with the Music Maker Foundation, a grass roots organization which supports “carriers of America’s oldest roots music traditions and assists senior artists with resources they need to live”. 

In addition to licensing three songs, Putumayo will contribute 5% of its proceeds to support MMF in the incredibly important work they do. 

The album opens with Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Found My Baby Crying”. Deeply steeped in in the Mississippi mud, raw and emotional, this cut has a power and purpose seldom seen in modern music. It is a sweet and gentle reminder of where it all began, how far it has come and the importance it bears in the history of expressing the human condition. 

Up next is Arnaud Fradin & His Roots Combo, from France, as they honor the Delta blues traditions with Good Morning Love. The wonderful interplay between harmonica and guitar is a treat to the ears.

Continuing in that vein, up next Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee’s “Walk On”. It harkens back to the golden age of blues recordings in the 1950’s and 60’s. One of the preeminent  guitar and harmonica duos of their time, it is tonic for the heart to hear these masters of the art form once again pouring out of your speakers and directly into your soul.

Speaking of legends of the blues, up next is “In The Wee Hours”, by Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Two generational giants of the blues, they team up to create an atmospheric piece like no other. At home in a smoky late night watering hole, deep in the heart of Chicago, it draws you in and captivates you.

Track number five is a Lurrie Bell classic, “Blues In My Soul.” A member of the windy cities blues royalty, Lurrie’s sound is pure modern Chicago blues. There’s ‘Blues’, then there’s Lurrie Bell Blues… a deep and heartfelt sound unlike any other.

Up next, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, who played with many a jazz great, takes his sax and returns to his roots with a bluesy rendition of “Somebody’s Got To Go”. Originally written and released by Bill Casey in the 1930’s, this modern update is nothing short of magnificent.

Up next a collaboration between two New Orleans mainstays, Alabama Slim & Little Freddie King, and a song that was originally recorded and released by Music Maker Foundation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is so good for this world weary old heart to hear something so beautiful come from a time of such fear and devastation with “I Got The Blues.”

Cut number eight sounds like something straight out of the delta, as John Dee Holeman & The Waifs Band, give a masterful example of a twelve-bar blues with “Comin’ Home To You.” This is pure medicinal music, balm against a toxic world.

Now I mentioned legends on this album, but they don’t get much bigger than the incredible trio that provide the ninth cut on this album. Otis Spann, James Cotton and Muddy Waters, with the timeless and powerful “The Blues Never Die.” 

The album closes with Algia Mae Hinton, and his wonderfully quirky version of a classic, “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”. This is a sonic gift, a sweet reminder that in spite of the miseries we have all endured for the last two years, there is still great beauty to be found in this world.

Listening to this album feels like sitting in a cool dark kitchen, in the 1940’s, listening to the radio with a tall cold glass of lemonade. A sweet and refreshing drink from the past, a wonderful excursion into the mists of time. (Terry Parsons) –