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An exciting mix of styles, especially for a formative mid Fifties album – several of the tracks are the typically energetic Skiffle songs that made Lonnie a star in the first place and several others are much more downbeat and slower. We see him even attempt a track with jazz backing in “How Long, How Long Blues”. Honestly, it’s a little peculiar. Lonnie combines jazz and blues in such a rickety and loose way that it almost falls apart at several moments. Thankfully, the sheer bizarre nature of the track keeps it all together. The other weaker moment is the short “I’m Alabammy Bound” – too repetitive and bare to stir more than brief notice from me, but still short enough to not become filler.
There are highlights aplenty on here – the unsurprisingly emotionally-sung “Nobody’s Child” is so convincing that you almost think that Lonnie wrote the standard himself. That’s the testament of a good rendition. Possibly the most surprising cut on here is “Frankie and Johnny”. An old folk song about a couple who had sworn to be true to each other and, without fail, both cheat on each other. I’ve come to know this song as a little ditty from one of Johnny Cash’s many albums and I saw it merely as decent filler for the album. Yet, Lonnie has it much significantly longer and expanded into something of an epic. Extra verses and, thus, adds more meaning and significance to their relationship. Not the better performance, but still worthwhile.
The fast-paced songs are undeniably the most killer material here and justify everything else. It sounds only moderately exciting now but imagine how breath-taking these would have sounded at the time. “Wabash Cannonball” sounds like a lost signature tune – it has everything you need from a Skiffle song from Lonnie, speed, the urchin “man of the people” charm of Lonnie’s voice and the unbeatable instrumentation.
This sounds like a snapshot back in time. Jazz albums generally age better and there are more timeless material from this era – this is more dated but that only adds to the authenticity. If you’re looking for a mix of styles from an era not often explored, you could probably do much worse than this.