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Alvin Youngblood Hart – Down in the Alley

Down in the Alley
 
Down in the Alley

I wasn’t prepared for how good this disc is. Hart’s mostly known for his work in country blues. Here, he does a program of good, old-fashioned country blues. And this Mississippi-Delta songfest is an amazing one-man effort!

Hart sings while he plays guitar, mandolin, and banjo. And it’s one of the most soul-searing albums you’ll hear in this day and age.

Hart inhabits every song and lyric as if in were born in him from day one. That’s saying something, seeing as how Hart didn’t write any of these. There are lots of traditional cuts, along with stuff from Leadbelly, Sleepy John Estes, Odetta, Charlie Patton, and plenty more.

The intensity of the performances is at times joyful, many times scary, and a listen to the album gives you an amazing feeling. It may sound like grand hyperbole, but it’s not unlike when I first heard the Robert Johnson recordings, or the Blind Willie McTell recordings.

One other very cool thing about Hart; he plays instruments that he repairs and restores himself, including a Bruno five-string banjo from the ’20s, a 12-string Stella guitar made in 1915, a ’28 National Triolian resonator, a mid-’30s Regal Resonator, and a Stella six-string from the ’30s.

I don’t know what Hart will do next, or where his career wanderings may take him, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the country-blues bug continues to bite him.



This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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