Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee – Live From The Ash Grove


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An Excellent Taster From Two Early Exponents an Legends of the Folk Blues Scene

When you talk about Blues and particularly Piedmont Blues legends, there’s no denying how easily the conversation will inevitably gravitate to blind harpist, Sonny Terry (born, in Greenboro, N.Carolina and, guitarist Brownie McGee (Knoxville, Tennessee).
Between them they have influenced countless budding exponents of the Folk Blues genre over the last sixty plus years, with the duo playing a huge part in the various Folk Blues revivals in that time.

Recorded live in 1973 at the famed, Ash Grove (a number of fabulous recordings over the years have been made there over the years), in Hollywood the duo were well into their 35 year partnership when these eight (plus two from 1965) previously unreleased tracks were captured.
Starting out in New York City, circa 1941; they rubbed shoulders with others of the Folk Blues crowd that would go onto become legends themselves, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Josh White, Paul Robeson, Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie plus a bunch more.   

It’s a little known fact that Sonny Terry was part of the original cast of the 1947 Broadway Musical, Finian’s Rainbow and the couple can be seen in the Steve Martin comedy, The Jerk, Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple and, McGhee on his own in Alan Parker’s Angel Heart.

It’s no surprise Terry and McGhee are relaxed here, completely at ease and in charge on the stage of a venue they performed on at its opening in 1958.
Piercing blasts on harmonica, chugging guitar tools coupled with genuine “working man’s” vocals and stories to match are a must here, for your listening pleasure; and they’re not only for followers of the genre, but for anyone with ‘catholic’ musical taste.

McGhee’s charismatic style offers huge appeal as he holds court on stage with great stories come from being survivors of WW2, constants of the 1960’s Folk and Blues ‘booms’ and of course the civil rights troubles, Cuban missile crisis and the loss of JFK, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr; plus their two-time Newport Folk Festival appearances helped cement their position.

Biggies here include, Trouble In Mind, the humorous intro to Hootin’ The Blues.
”I performed it every night for two and half years for Finian’s Rainbow”, says McGhee, and here it comes complete with a string of excitable hoots, alongside some sublime harp and guitar runs making it an instrumental of the highest order. That also goes for harp driven “Blowin’ The Fuses”; an incredible piece as Terry’s extraordinary work is warmly aided and abetted by McGhee’s sweet acoustic guitar (and hoots etc).

McGhee hands down some wisdom on My Father’s Words, and the rhythmic Blues Life’s A Gamble, Up Under The Hood
Only town in the world could afford this song is New York City; but I’m not in New York anymore, just a country boy from Oakland, California. I was walking down 42nd street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway.
All the New Yorkers call that the crossroad of the world…I looked back, and it was a lady cab driver.” 

There’s more wonderful hilarious stuff elsewhere and he has the audience eating out of his hand.  

Their stellar cover of Leadbelly’s Midnight Special cooks up a storm and bristling with energy Pack It Up And Go has Terry powering throughout and with McGhee at his shoulder it’s all muscle as they mop up and like so many songs it’s a truly commanding performance.

One of the bonus tracks, Baby, I Got My Mind Off You has a gritty, rustic edge to it as a foot pounding rhythm helps propel the number forward making it, like the album itself; an excellent taster of a legendary Blues duo.

Review by ‘Our Man in Havana’ Maurice Hope  - www.rockingmagpie

Track Listing:
1. Trouble In Mind -   2. Intro Hootin' The Blues -   3. Hootin' The Blues -   4. Blowin' The Fuses -   5. Life's A Gamble -   6. (I Gotta Look) Up Under Your Hood -    7. My Father's Words -   8. Midnight Special -   9. Packin' Up Gettin' Ready To Go -   10. Baby, I Got My Mind Off You -   11. C'mon If You're Comin' -

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