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When Blues Were Pink

31 JAN 11 DAVID SHANNON

As a member of the renowned East Coast school of blues, and more specifically as a card-carrying representative of the Piedmont style of guitar fingerpicking, South Carolina legend Pinkney "Pink" Anderson deftly alternated between an array of music, from rag and folk to blues and country minstrel songs. His range came from a nearly career-long tendency to be a minstrel of sorts himself, playing with traveling medicine shows and adapting different forms of American roots music. However, for all his talents, he made relatively few recordings in his long life. Carolina Blues Man, Vol. 1 -- which presaged the '60s blues revival -- was his second of only five albums, but it renders an encompassing songbook, from standards to Anderson originals.

Moreover, his seemingly uncluttered style belies the dexterity of his guitar work. Typically supported by a thumb-strummed pattern that frees his fingers to pick out any number of melodies, Anderson's syncopated playing provides a compelling backdrop for the album's selection of raw blues.

Take his spare rendition of "Baby Please Don't Go," possibly the most plaintive version of the tune ever recorded, a bare bones translation that sounds deceptively easy to play but proves that the blues are much harder to truly feel. Similarly, songs like Anderson's own "My Baby Left Me," as well as "Mama Where Did You Stay Last Night" and "Thousand Woman Blues," offer a haunting chronicle of love and heartbreak, strung along by Anderson's weary vocals. The broken-down and the lowdown are also strongly represented here, with "Big House Blues" and "Meet Me In The Bottom." But don't take my word for it. It's best to follow Anderson's own advice in the closing tune: "Try Some Of That."



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