Purists may feel that the inclusion of rock guitar god Jimi Hendrix on a site dedicated to blues music is shear blasphemy. It can be argued, however, that Hendrix did more to bring the blues to a white audience than either the influential blues artists of the 1950s and '60s or the white British blues-rockers that followed. First and foremost, Hendrix was a bluesman at heart. The guitarist made his bones playing blues and rockin' R&B in Southern clubs before his fame. Hendrix later brought a great deal of that blues style and tradition to the music he created during the late-1960s.
Recognizing Hendrix's Blues Influences
Jimi Hendrix: Blues recognizes this debt to Hendrix's early influences and collects eleven of the legend's most soulful blues performances on one disc. Hendrix picked up the guitar as a young teen, quickly developing a style patterned after his favorites, artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins and Slim Harpo. Living in Nashville after getting out of the army, Hendrix hooked up with Billy Cox, with whom he would play across the country, both as a duo and backing other artists. Hendrix eventually built reputation playing on the road with R & B artists such as Little Richard and Jackie Wilson.
Hendrix's Move Towards Rock
In the mid-1960s, Hendrix would turn away from his pure blues roots towards rock music. He put together the Jimi Hendrix Experience and, cutting hit songs like "Foxy Lady" and "Purple Haze," used his instrumental prowess to redefine the role of guitar in contemporary rock & roll. Indeed, Hendrix's popularity and skill sealed the six-stringed instrument's fate as the driving power in rock music, building upon the momentum created by British artists like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton.
Through his brief tenure as rock star, however, Hendrix would always return to his roots both on stage and on record, albeit in a way that would make most purists shudder. Whether it was through his personalized versions of traditional blues standards like "Catfish Blues" or "Bleeding Heart," covers like Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy," or cranking out originals like "Red House," "Voodoo Chile" or "Hear My Train A Comin'," Hendrix always had one foot planted firmly in the blues milieu.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Culled from the Hendrix archives, Jimi Hendrix: Blues is an important collection. It's well worth digging up a copy of this disc, as the album introduces listeners to a different, bluesier side of this great artist, a side that remained an integral and important aspect of Hendrix's music until his untimely death. (MCA Records)