31 January 2010

The George Mitchell Collection

"Volumes 1 - 45". Not 45 CDs, fortunately, just 7.

Let's start with the question "Who is George Mitchell?" George Mitchell is the person who recorded the music on this collection, he's not one of the musicians. George Mitchell was, at 17 in 1961, interested in blues music and decided to check the bluesmen and -women out. From 1967 on he started to work his experiences into a master's thesis and a book, turning into a professional of some sorts.

Obviously, by that time many artists had been re-discovered and recorded but the world was (probably still is) full of people who've never been recorded, let alone released. The Mitchells (man George and wife Cathy) found many 'new' interesting artist, even styles in blues never caught on tape before. They were the first to record R.L. Burnside and Precious Bryant for example.

Right, "The George Mitchell Collection". AFAIK, everything's been released before on vinyl although it's hard for me to estimate how much "everything" is; his recording span from early 1960's to early 1980's. The 45 volumes are a 'volume' per artist, usually 2 to 4 songs. Those 45 volumes fit on the first 6 CDs, CD 7 is a bonus CD. A total 0f 174 songs.

It's too much to see this as an ordinary album. It's a collection of rare recordings, a monument ot the artists and the recorder. Too much to listen to in one go, probably even too much to get to know it all. Overkill? If you're into this stuff, chances are you've bought this CD already. Else, well yes, there's an awful lot of acoustic blues by a singer and a guitar, maybe with a harmonica. It's not monotonous: there are women too, fife and drum bands, electric blues, great background singing, etc. But to be fair: the vast majority is a guy singing the blues over a guitar, let's say this set is great for showing the variety in such a simple set-up. Most of the artists are little known, here and there you may find a name you've heard before.

The set comes as 7 CDs in their separate sleeves inside a thin cardboard outer sleeve. Not much here. There's a booklet with introductory text and texts per artists, the images are tiny reproductions of the original vinyl 'volumes'. The text is OK, plentiful.

It's a 'cheap' production, no excessive effort went into packaging. It's mirrored by the sound quality, we're essentially talking about field-recordings made by an amateur (most of the times alright). It's enough, it's functional. What it lacks in finesse is made up for in volume: there's a lot to listen to and a lot to read in the booklet. It's also literally 'cheap', considering you can divide the price of purchase by 7.
Fat Possum records, 2008

The George Mitchell Collection (450 MiB total)
CD 1
CD 2
CD 3
CD 4
CD 5
CD 6
CD 7
(Plenty of inconsistencies in the naming, sorry. If you spot an error, please let me know.)