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Reissue © 2005 Conjuroo Recordings

The Singing Drifter was originally released on vinyl in 1972 and fewer than 1,000 copies were sold. Unavailable for over 30 years, this album has been re-released and also includes three bonus tracks. Blind Arvella Gray was Texas born and came to Chicago by way of Peoria in the 1940’s. He performed as a solo acoustic bluesman playing for a living on street corners, South Side’s Englewood shopping district, Chicago’s Maxwell Street Flea Market and the local Jazz Record Mart. He clanged, strummed and played traditional and gospel songs, folk blues, as well as his own creations with a slide on an old National Dobro made of either copper or brass.

Little was known or written of him. Here is an opportunity to hear Blind Arvella Gray raw and unedited, recorded at Sound Unlimited Studios in Harvey, Illinois, a studio, home and office for country icon Marvin Rainwater.

1. THERE”S MORE PRETTY GIRLS THAN ONE –(Alton Delmore/Arthur Smith) a fast tempo with an irregular beat, it’s an old cowboy song that his vocals strain on

2. JOHN HENRY- (Traditional) most well known song sung by this world renown street performer, gets your toes tapping at seven minutes long

3. ARVELLA’S WORK SONG-(Arvella Gray)-my favorite track, all accapella with only hand clapping to keep a beat, references East St. Louis burning down in the song

4. TAKE YOUR BURDEN TO THE LORD-(Traditional)– upbeat tempo with sliding’ on the dobro

5. WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN-(Traditional) old song done up acoustic style by Arvella, his vocals nice and hearty here

6. STANDING BY THE BEDSIDE OF A NEIGHBOR-(Traditional) full of soul

7. THOSE OLD FASHIONED ALLEY BLUES-(Arvella Gray) jamming original with thumping bass line

8. GANDER DANCING SONG-(Arvella Gray)- another accapella gem

9. STAND BY ME-(Traditional)- guitar slapping and acoustic sliding

10. WHAT WILL YOUR RECORD BE-(Arvella Gray) more powerful vocals here in a shouting style

11. IF I COULD HEAR MY MOTHER PRAY AGAIN-(Traditional) simple strumming pattern with some slide work and straight ahead vocals

12. MOTHERLESS CHILDREN HAVE A HARD TIME-(Traditional) unruly and imperfect and lyrics are very repetitive

13. TAKE MY HAND PRECIOUS LORD-(Traditional) vocals and slide blend together well

14. CRYIN’ HOLY UNTO THE LORD-(Traditional) my favorite traditional song on the disc with a little more slide work in between lyrics

This is an enjoyable cd for a fan of raw, soulful, unaltered acoustic blues and gospel music straight from the streets of Chicago by, The Singing Drifter. I give this disc 3.4 out of 5 on my STLBluesometer rating. Order your own copy via Amazon at www.conjuroo.com

Joseph "UJ" Miller
email :: uj@stlblues.net

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