Walter ‘Furry’ Lewis
Live at the Gaslight
Real Deal Authentic Mississippi Blues … and MORE!
Furry Lewis’s story is similar to a great many Bluesmen from the early part of the 20th Century; relative success that was halted by the Depression, followed by a life working as a street cleaner until he was re-discovered in the 1950’s; but still had to do the day job.
During the 1960’s of course, the trendy new hipsters in Greenwich Village (and beyond) did their Blues History exams and unearthed him for a second time.
This particular recording was made and originally released in 1971, with Lewis being aged either 78 or 72 …. no one was sure!
The album opens with Furry actually being introduced to the stage to an appreciative audience; then seamlessly going into some sublime slide guitar then warbling his way through the love song, Paer Lee.
I was only 45 seconds into it when I realised that although I’d never heard of him; Furry Lewis was the ‘real deal’ …. what a talent this man had!
While several songs here are normally associated with more famous Bluesmen of the era; as we all know …. nobody really who knows who wrote what!
While the themes in Lewis’s songs may not be new or different; I’m smitten ….. not least through the sparky Move to Kansas City and the melancholic Brownsville which very nearly made my jaw drop the first time I heard it.
I have a few versions of Nearer My God Than Thee in my collection; but the way Furry Lewis performs it really is jaw dropping; very Gospel in arrangement but sounding like he means every word.
Perhaps it’s the edit trying to fit into a time slot; but a couple of songs don’t get spoken intros; and a couple more it’s a bare minimum, but when they do; Lewis’s wizened voice is spellbinding.
Speaking of the ‘edit’ the album doesn’t feel if too much has been done bring the recording up to 2023 Hi-Fi quality; but what you do hear is crisp and clear …. so a big thank you to whoever was ‘doing sound’ that evening.
While predominantly Mississippi style Blues; Furry drifts off in other directions when the mood takes him; and that does the likes of John Henry and When I Lay My Burden Down all the better; and even more exciting if my initial notes are to be believed.
Who knows where to go on an album like this to select a single Favourite Song? Absolutely every track here has its merits; but I’m going slightly left of centre for the first of my picks; the quirky yet mesmerising My Dog Got The Measle ….. it’s as much fun as you’re ever gonna get from low down Blues like this!
My second choice is more cerebral and standard; and that’s the stark Waiting For a Train; which is a Classic in anyone’s collection of Blues Music.
A close third would be Turn Your Money Green which is darker than most else here, with Lewis’ voice sounding like it could crack at any moment and his accompanying guitar picking is deliberately sparse and stark too.
I guess there will be plenty of people who read this will ‘sniff’ and go “Furry Lewis ain’t no ????? (insert any name from the History of the Blues)” but that’s not the point; is it? Someone somewhere has found this recording and released it into the wild, for no other reason than it needs to be heard by Music Lovers the world over.
PS There a fascinating and well researched booklet that accompanies the disc too.
Released 7th February 2023
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