It is no exaggeration to call Little Walter the Jimi Hendrix of the electric harp: he redefined what the instrument was and what it could do, pushing the instrument so far into the future that his music still sounds modern decades after it was recorded. Little Walter wasn't the first musician to amplify the harmonica but he arguably was the first to make the harp sound electric, twisting twitching, vibrant runs out of his instrument; nearly stealing the show from Muddy Waters on his earliest Chess recordings; and so impressing Leonard Chess that he made Muddy keep Walter as his harpist even after Waters broke up his band. Chess also made Walter into his studio's house harpist and started to release Little Walter solo records with the instrumental "Juke" in 1952. "Juke" became a smash hit and turned Little Walter into a star, making him a steady presence on the '50s R&B charts.
With 63 tracks and a total running time of just under four hours, Dust On The Nettles examines the metamorphosis that British folk underwent during the late 1960s, when the influence of psychedelia and the counterculture saw the idiom being twisted into all kinds of new and exotic shapes, as the finger-in-the-ear folk clubs of yore were inexorably drawn into a brave new world of Arts Labs, free festivals and the nascent college/university circuit.
Most of this CD is taken up by a special Newport Jazz Festival concert featuring a big band full of Lionel Hampton's alumni. With trombonist Al Grey, Frank Foster on tenor and a screaming trumpet section that boasted Snooky Young, Jimmy Nottingham, Joe Newman and Wallace Davenport, the explosive nature of the music is not too surprising; the climax is provided by guest Illinois Jacquet on "Flying Home." The remainder of this disc contains half of a very effective 1956 session cut in Spain in which the medium-size group includes a castanet player and two songs match Hampton with the great Spanish pianist Tete Monteliu.
Of all the early rock & rollers, Fats Domino was the easiest to take for granted, since he made it all seem so easy. Even when it rocked hard, his music was so relaxed, so friendly that it sounded effortless and natural, which was part of the reason that his classic recordings for Imperial in the '50s were so consistently enjoyable. All the hits, many of their flips sides, and most of his album cuts were flat-out fun – maybe not as revolutionary as work by Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and the Everly Brothers, but his body of work for Imperial not only stands proudly next to theirs, but is just as influential. This much is clear after years of hindsight, but in the late '60s he was as passé as any of his peers, even if there were legions of new rockers, from the Beatles to Randy Newman, who were raised on his music.
Omnivore's 2013 double-disc set Buck Em! The Music of Buck Owens (1955-1967) provides an interesting spin on Buck Owens: through a collection of mono singles, live tracks, alternate takes, early 45s, and other rarities, it tells an alternate history of Buck's prime years. If there's a hit on this 50-track collection, it's almost always in a version that's slightly different than what usually shows up on a standard greatest-hits. "Second Fiddle," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "I Don't Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," and "Before You Go" are all in mono, there's an early version of "Ain't It Amazing Gracie," and "Act Naturally" is live, so they're familiar enough to not feel jarring and they do provide the core of a collection that winds up wandering into some pretty interesting territory.