September 26, 2023
Big Bill Broonzy – Live In Amsterdam 1953

Big Bill Broonzy – Live In Amsterdam 1953

Liberation Hall

LP release

Side A- 5 tracks/20:21

Side B – 5 tracks/20:23

Another Record Store Day vinyl release, one of many blues albums from Liberation Hall, this one is a real gem. It features one of the giants in the history of blues music. Born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, Big Bill Broonzy (Lee Conley Bradley) started out playing country blues, then as he migrated north, his music became more sophisticated, helping pave the way for the blues to go electric. At the height of his career, he toured internationally, renown for his powerful vocals, refined guitar style, and songwriting that expertly melded his country and big city influences.

Recorded at The Concertgebouw hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands, just a few years before his untimely passing, Broonzy sounds relaxed in front of an appreciative audience. The sound quality of the recording makes it sound like he is right there in the room with you, especially when he talks to the audience in between songs. His guitar rings out, especially on an extended, moving version of “When The Sun Goes Down.” He introduces “Goin’ Down The Road, Feelin’ Bad” as a song about not getting paid for the work you did, and having no real course of action.

Explaining that a friend had asked him if he played songs without singing, Broonzy admits that he is not the best guitar player around before entertaining the audience with a sprightly take on his tune, “House Rent Stomp,” picking the guitar with relative ease. He delves into the issue of racism on the original, “Black, Brown, And White,” the somewhat bouncy tune contrasting with his cutting descriptions of unfair treatment.

Another instrumental, “Caribbean Rag,” is a short burst of fine guitar picking, followed by a touch of gospel as Broonzy delivers a resolute treatment of “Down By The Riverside.” He switches to a different approach on “Mindin’ My Own Business,” relating a story about a family squabble that lead him to pen a deep Mississippi blues tune on the old axiom about reaping what you sow. Equally touching is “Just A Dream,” an original that finds the singer yearning for fame, fortune, love, and respect, yet always waking to a totally different reality.

Finishing on a high note, Broonzy shares the “Glory Of Love,” not before telling the audience that if they want to play the blues, go to a good teacher and learn how to play it right. Then when you are done, walk away and start playing everything the wrong way, as that is where the “blue” notes can be found. It reminds listeners that despite all of world’s troubles, love remains a powerful force for change.

Acoustic blues lovers will no doubt want to have this excellent recording in their collection. Blues fans of all types should check it out. Big Bill just might win you over with his outstanding performance on this fine sounding recording.

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