By recommending Big Mama Thornton for the American Folk Blues festival that toured Europe in 1965, Chris Strachwitz got the opportunity to tag along and to record her for his Arhoolie label for the first time. Thornton was in peak form, and it’s no wonder, considering that the studio band consisted of Buddy Guy, Eddie Boyd, Fred Below and Jimmy Lee Robinson. Her “Little Red Rooster” is as fine a rendition as one is likely to hear, and the five previously unreleased tracks include an alternate take of her “Hound Dog” hit. Fred McDowell, who was also brought over for the festival, accompanies the singer on three atypical country blues numbers. Thornton, who also plays harmonica or drums on several tracks, was arguably the most influential of several authentic blues women still active in the ’60s. The material on this reissue, which closes with a fifteen-minute interview with the singer, is nearly as essential as her classic Peacock sides from the ’50s.
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