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The Roundhouse Jug Four
Jug bands there have been a-plenty on records, made exclusively in America, chiefly in the cities of Memphis, Louisville, and Atlanta, mainly during the classic era of jazz from 1922 to 1931. There origin is as old as the blues; to the big companies operating in America today, they are not a commercial proposition any more, it seems. But this group, resident in London's folk-song club, the Roundhouse, in London's Wardour Street, is the first British jug band ever to make a record for commercial release.
The leader and general all-rounder (no pun intended!), Cyril Davies, used to play with our Steve Lane's Famous Southern Stompers and is the composer of that strangely attractive minor-key melody THE STAGGERS which has been recorded for us by Colin Kingwell's Jazz Bandits (VEP-11). On the session that produced the above tracks, he knelt before the microphone, the better to record the instrumental number SHORT LEGS SHUFFLE, which suggested its name. The rippling folksy banjo by petite Lise Turner, wife of the jug player Reg, is one of the most attractive and unusual sounds on any VJM record.
The first track on each side is a tribute to the Memphis Jug Band and its leader, Will Shade, who for nearly four years (February 1927 to November 1930) directed many sessions in Memphis and some in Atlanta, playing all the instruments used by Cyril Davies and Jeff Bradford. K.C. Moan was actually issued here on Regal-Zonophone in February 1937, but while a good sale of such a record could probably be expected now, it meant nothing to the public then. A more thoroughly satisfying blues performance has seldom been recorded, and this version echoes that mood.
W.C. Handy's HESITATION BLUES is a well-tried folk song, with countless variations on the lyrics. Lise Turner sings with Cyril Davies on this and IT'S THE SAME THING, and the effect is quite remarkably close to the sound of the country blues bands that made records "on location" in the South upwards of three decades ago.
This is not a skiffle group as the term as the term came to be misused by the Tin Pan Alley men in 1956 and a couple of years thereafter; it is a group of four enthusiastic and artistically sensitive people, mature in years, not teenagers, who have steeped themselves in their idiom with these happy results. - Brian Rust
VINTAGE JAZZ MUSIC SOCIETY RECORDS. 32 Kenton Lane, Kenton, Harrow, Middlesex, England
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