Review: Jesse Fuller | Move on Down the Line

Fledg'ling (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  September 9, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


If you were a real hip folkie circa 1961-'64, chances are you were into the inimitable Jesse Fuller. Like Blind Willie McTell (and more recent performers Fred Neil and Karen Dalton), Fuller was part of the secret arsenal of the cognoscenti, a real-deal bluesman who still roamed the festivals with his one-man-jug-band shtick. Future legends like Dylan, Lennon, and Jerry Garcia cut their guitar teeth on Fuller's signature tune, "San Francisco Bay Blues."

This is a welcome reissue of a 1965 UK album that paired then-recent recordings made during one of the singer's acclaimed European tours with some of his earliest recorded material. Those 1954 sessions, done in the field-recording mode of the Lomax era, attest to the unique genius this peculiar showman developed during his long years of artistic struggle.

Fuller, a difficult, solitary man ("The Lone Cat," they called him), had been variously sold as a novelty act, a primitive, a hobo, a blues brother, a café-society Josh White figure, and a precursor of Greenwich Village and British blue-eyed blues. These recordings — particularly "Railroad Blues," kazoo solo and all — show that beyond the marketing, he was indeed something else.

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