Dallas Alley Drag

In the history of Texas blues the glory often went to the guitar players, but this collection of twenties and thirties blues, rags, and stomps proves they weren’t the only show in town. Playing rolling bass underpinnings with their left hand and rocking lead lines with their right, the Dallas pianists represented on this CD display the eclecticism, invention, and airy feel of all good Texas blues. The best-known is rollicking juke-joint sage Whistlin’ Alex Moore, who crossed ragtime and stride with blues to lay the groundwork for boogie-woogie, rhythm and blues, and certain piano-jazz styles; his five tracks here include the delightful “They May Not Be My Toes.” K. D. Johnson, who backs both Ida Mae Mack and Bessie Tucker, is all over his keyboard, and Texas Bill Day’s hard bass lines are tempered by his bright, bouncy lead runs. Billiken Johnson’s comic vocal effects (he neither sings nor plays an instrument) bring a jug-band spirit to six tracks. These musicians, though not wholly averse to falling back on traditional lyric lines, were also adventurous songwriters; efforts like Bobby Cadillac’s “Carbolic Acid Blues” can stand alone regardless of what instrument plays it.

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