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Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

album1Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee met behind a dry goods store in 1939, and although both have recorded extensively as soloists, they were a team from then for more than 40 years. Their style, acoustic folk-blues, was a hit with audiences over that time.

Brownie McGhee was a superbly smooth guitarist and singer, while Sonny Terry played harmonica and sang in a distinctive country style. Sonny was born Saunders Terrell in 1911 near Durham, North Carolina. Although blind since the age of 18, he found he could make a living doing what he loved – playing music. Brownie McGhee was born in 1915 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

They moved to New York shortly after they met and quickly became part of the folk scene – sharing gigs with people like LeadBelly, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. After the war they recorded prolifically and were among the first blues musicians to tour Europe in the 1950s. Their success continued into the 1960s, with more recording sessions and world tours. A little equipment, a couple of chairs and two great players and the room would explode.

Absolutely the Best comes from a recording session on July 6 and 7, 1960 in Los Angeles, where they played as a duo as well as with Big Joe Williams and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

The tracks on this album certainly capture the essence of the blues and take you from the country style to the big city sound. Sonny Terry’s harmonica can cover an incredible range of sounds from the upbeat, that makes you want to smile, to the slow wail that makes you feel the pain. Brownie McGhee does a superb job on the acoustic guitar. Keeping it simple works on this album – just the two of them and their guitar and harmonica, with a little help from their friends on three of the tracks.

This CD is a must for anyone wanting to enjoy the best of the blues. True blues fans won’t want to miss this album, which spotlights Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at their best, and it’s a great initiation for anyone new to the blues.