Music : Folk : MP3/Variable
In today's climate of a blues band seemingly on every corner with "the next Stevie Ray Vaughan" being touted every other minute, it's hard to imagine a time when being a White blues singer was considered kind of a novelty. But in those heady times of the early '60s and the folk and blues revival, that's exactly how it was. But into this milieu came three young men who knew it, understood it, and could play and sing it; their names were Koerner, Ray and Glover. They were folkies, to be sure, but the three of them did a lot -- both together and separately -- to bring the blues to a White audience and in many ways, set certain things in place that have become standards of the Caucasian presentation of the music over the years.
The three of them were college students attending the University of Minnesota, immediately drawn together by their common interests in the music and by the close-knit folk community that existed back then. As was their wont, they all decided to append their names with colorful nicknames; there was “Spider” John Koerner, the Jesse Fuller and Big Joe Williams of the group, Dave “Snaker” Ray, a 12-string playing Leadbelly aficionado, and Tony “Little Sun” Glover on harmonica, holding up the Sonny Terry end of things. This simple little act of reinvention resonates up to the present day.
They worked in various configurations within the trio unit, often doing solo turns and duets, but seldom all three of them together. Their breakthrough album, “Blues, Rags & Hollers”, released in 1963, sent out a clarion call that this music was just as accessible to White listeners -- and especially players -- as singing and strumming several choruses of "Aunt Rhody." While recording two excellent follow-ups for Elektra, both Koerner and Ray released equally fine solo albums. Tony Glover, for his part, put together one of the very first instructional books on how to play blues harmonica (Blues Harp) around this time, and its excellence and conciseness still make it the how-to book of choice for all aspiring harmonica players.
Who knew that three guys this cool were hanging around Minneapolis in the early 1960s? Back when Bob Dylan was but a skinny (and short-tenured) frosh at the U of M, Koerner, Ray and Glover were already lighting up the West Bank and Dinkytown with their eclectic blues, rags and hollers.
The threesome were a blast of fresh air in a musical milieu that mostly resembled the inner-sleeve album photo (crew-cutted, horn-rimmed guy wearing headphones), helping the Twin Cities turn the page into what has been a tumultuous and productive scene ever since.
Blues, Rags and Hollers" is far from a perfect album. Live observers have noted that the threesome appeared each to be tapping their feet to their own tempos at times, and much of the music is enthusiastically sloppy in this way.
However, such enthusiasm is their strong suit: the opening straight-vocal cut, "Linin' Track," begins the festivities with a bang and sets the tone throughout. Other standout tracks include "Bugger Burns," the Robert Johnson classic "Dust My Broom," and "Good Time Charlie.