Champion Jack DUPREE – Blues From The Gutter 1958

Champion Jack DUPREE – Blues From The Gutter 1958
Recorded NYC, February 4, 1958
1992 Issue. Atl. 7 82434-2


‘Blues From the Gutter’, recorded in 1958, is easily the best work of New Orleans’ pianist-singer Champion Jack Dupree and also a blues masterpiece.
Although the powerful songs deal with the dark side of life the music is strangely uplifting.
Produced by Jerry Wexler with a brilliant band featuring stunning solos from alto saxophonist Pete Brown and guitarist Ennis Lowery(aka Larry Dale) this album is an essential part of any blues collection.
Strange coincidence that Blues From The Gutter should come up for review now. Champion Jack Dupree was introduced to me at last year’s Nerdcon and I’ve just recently returned from the latest jolly boy’s outing with another batch of obscure CDs to invest in. Who knows, I may get around to reviewing those in another twelve months! But, if they’re anywhere close to being as good as Blues From The Gutter, they will be well worth waiting for.

I can’t think of any other musical genre where the lives of its early pioneers reflect so closely the tone and character of the music itself. As a genre, the blues evolved from an amalgam of working songs and spirituals mostly in deprived and depressed areas. As a result blues practitioners tended to be poor, hard-bitten, itinerant, with a predilection for booze and/or drugs and enough tales of woe to fill a handful of life stories. In that regard, Champion Jack Dupree fits the prescribed template perfectly.

Born in New Orleans in the early part of the last century Dupree was orphaned after losing his parents in a fire. He learned his barrelhouse piano style from frequenting local juke joints and watching the technique of other blues artists. To make ends meet he boxed professionally for a period of time, hence the title “Champion”. He was in the Navy during World War II, was captured and spent a couple of years in a Japanese POW camp. On his return to the States he decided to pursue a music career and was willing to uproot himself to Europe to do it. In later life he returned to the country of his birth and passed away in 1992. Not exactly an average life!

And that’s reflected in the subject matter on Blues From The Gutter – which proves to be a very apt title. Death, drugs, sex and disease, a grim cocktail that Dupree manages to mix with equal amounts of gravitas, humour and regret. “Can’t Kick The Habit” and “Junker’s Blues” brilliantly tread the line between the allure of marijuana and cocaine (the former of which was not illegal at the time) and their ultimately debilitating effects. “T.B. Blues” tells the tale of a man dying from the dreadful disease while “Bad Blood” and “Nasty Boogie” are deliciously salacious and racy. One interesting point about the tracks, the original sleeve notes lists Dupree as having written “Frankie And Johnny” and “Stack-O-Lee”. Now I readily admit my knowledge of the blues isn’t all that great but I’m pretty sure both songs can be traced back much farther than Dupree. Maybe the scale of Dupree’s arrangements meant he could claim some kind of adaptation credit but it does seem a little odd to me.

As a whole Blues From The Gutter manages to capture that evocative atmosphere that seems to be the purview of the blues. It’s raw, it’s rough and it’s overflowing with feeling and spirit and an innate knowledge of its own historical roots. Dupree’s backing band may not be the greatest to have gravitated out of genre but they have to be given massive credit for contributing to the overall feel of the music. This is a fabulous album by a colourful and talented artist and reaffirms how important to me the blues has become.
By Grampus.
The 1958 masterwork album of Champion Jack Dupree’s long and prolific career. Cut in New York (in stereo!) with a blasting band that included saxist Pete Brown and guitarist Ennis Lowery, the Jerry Wexler-produced Atlantic collection provides eloquent testimony to Dupree’s eternal place in the New Orleans blues and barrelhouse firmament. There’s some decidedly down-in-the-alley subject matter — Can’t Kick the Habit, T.B. Blues, a revival of Junker’s Blues — along with the stomping Nasty Boogie and treatments of the ancient themes
Stack-O-Lee and Frankie & Johnny.
By Bill Dahl. AMG.
Champion Jack Dupree (piano, vocal);
Pete Brown (alto sax);
Ennis Lowery (guitar);
Wendell Marshall (bass);
Willie Jones (drums).
01. Strollin’  3:01
02. T.B. Blues  3:42
03. Can’t Kick the Habit  3:43
04. Evil Woman  4:21
05. Nasty Boogie  3:10
06. Junker’s Blues  3:12
07. Bad Blood  3:59
08. Goin’ Down Slow  4:04
09. Frankie & Johnny  3:23
10 Stack-O-Lee  3:56

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2 Responses to “Champion Jack DUPREE – Blues From The Gutter 1958”

  1. Many thanks for posting this superlative album which, for me, defines the man and his music.

    • ver welcome nick,
      there ain´t very much left who will know the value of dupree.
      **A formidable contender in the ring before he shifted his focus to pounding the piano instead, Champion Jack Dupree often injected his lyrics with a rowdy sense of down-home humor. But there was nothing lighthearted about his rock-solid way with a boogie; when he shouted “Shake Baby Shake,” the entire room had no choice but to acquiesce.**

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