« All are certainly well worth your time » by Blues&Rhythm

‘Gombay’, as used here, is more or less a generic term fot the traditionnal music of the chain of 29 major islands (and many more smaller islets) known as The Bahamas, the former Britisch colony (though that was still its status when this material was recorded) situated largely north of Cuba and Hispaniola and south-east of Florida. Blind Blake (Higgs) is the best-known of the performers on these two CDs, with his bright, breezy, largely string band music (though with a trumpeter from time to time) the subject of a lively reissue a couple of years ago : ‘Bahamian Songs’, Megaphone CDMEGA 22 – see B&R 241. The two CDs of the present collection divide fairly neatly into the first where the line-up consists of acoustic instruments, and the second where an elecric guitar is often quite noticeable. The repertoire of these performers is richly varied, ranging from vintage calypso – Tobagan Lord Intruder’s ‘Zombie Jamboree’, as covered here by Vincent Martin & His Bahamians, whose other three numbers are all associated with Wilmoth Houdini – and a jamaican-styled ‘Sly Mongoose’ by Delbon Johnson to Florida-born Eloise Lewis’s Carribbean-flavoured cover of the Drifters’ 1954 hit, ‘Honey Love’, here entitled ‘I Need It’ (incidentally, she is the sole female representative here) and Blind Blake’s big-sounding ‘Goombay Rock’ from 1952. André Toussaint is certainly an interesting character ; the notes speculate a Haitian connection, wich is certainly possible, given his name ; plus, he sings in French on ‘Pretty Boy’ a duet with George Symonette (who used to hang around with jazz players in the United States), and his other titles, ‘Nassau Meregue’ and ‘La Cruz’, sung in Spanish, may relate to The Dominican Republic – the other country besides Haïti to make up the island of Hispaniola. Occasionally there are hints of Cuban rumba and mambo, and even a hint of Brazilian sounds, though as the notes explain, many numbers are based on traditionnal Bahamian junkanno rhythms. Of course, there are plenty of numbers extolling the attractions of The Bahamas for the tourists, though these are not without interest either. The vast majority of these 44 tracks were recorded for and released by Harold Doane’s Art label based in Miami, Florida, wich went on later to issue rockabilly material ! The remaining items originate from Bahamas Records, Bahamian Rythm Ltd, Bahamian International Enterprises and The Nassau label Island Artists. All are certainly well worth your time and money if the music of the Carribean interests you at all. Norman DARWEN – BLUES&RHYTHM