Sunday, December 9, 2007

Black Ace

"Arhoolie Review

“In the late '30s, a Texan by the name of Babe Karo Lemon Turner released a single called `Black Ace Blues.' A Fort Worth radio station started to use the cut as a theme song and soon Turner assumed the moniker. Long before Jeff Healy piqued the music world's curiosity by playing guitar on his lap, Black Ace was playing a National steel guitar on his lap with a slide. He was one of only a few bluesmen who used this technique, the others being Kokomo Arnold and Black Ace's mentor, Oscar `Buddy' Woods. After only a few recordings in the '30s he remained dormant until Arhoolie Records' Chris Strachwitz ventured to his Fort Worth home in 1960 and brought the obscure bluesman back to the public's ear. Those recordings were originally issued the following year on Black Ace's only LP. With the fortunate advent of compact discs, we now have the pleasure of hearing the slide guitarist again some 30 years later. This disc features both the original sides from the '30s and those waxed in '60 including three never issued before. Except for one song left out from the '60s sessions, this is thus the complete Black Ace. Borrowing as much from Lonnie Johnson as Robert Johnson, Black Ace's style is much more city-like than the latter and less rough around the edges. While it is not as intense as Robert Johnson, it tends to be a little bit more listenable. Of the 70 minutes of music on this disc, almost all of it revolves around women, most of them bad ones. Even the Christmas songs `Christmas Time Blues' and `Santa Claus Blues,' beg not for better times or more money but, you guessed it, for the return of Black Ace's baby.

While his singing is impassioned and brooding, the real treat of Black Ace is his slide guitar playing. His Hawaii-meets-the-Delta playing style is both melodic and passionate, simple yet meaningful. A few instrumental numbers, `Bad Times Stomp,' `Ace's Guitar Blues' and `Ace's Guitar Breakdown,' focus on this aspect and leave questions as to just why this man is not openly enamored by today's guitarists like Ry Cooder and Eric Clapton. With the clear recording of this compact disc, that may change.”