Artist: David “Honeyboy” Edwards
Album: I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know
Label: Pro Show Bidness
Release Date: 08/02/2016
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, the last of the original Delta blues singers, has been gone five years now. He was fortunate enough to live until 96, and this neat little CD/DVD package captures him at 95, still surprisingly nimble-handed and certainly clear headed. It gives me a special feeling, because I had the good fortune of a one-on-one thirty minute conversation with Honeyboy just two years earlier. I vividly recall him saying, “My family thinks I should retire, but heck, I can still play and the only thing that really bothers me is my knee, which ain’t no problem sitting down like I do.” I responded that I’d rarely seen retirement do anyone any good, and urged him to keep going. I’m sure he would have done so anyway, but just having the conversation with Honeyboy was special, as he was filled with a sense of pride, having been able to travel and play all over the world – “not bad for a poor boy from Mississippi.”
I’m sure many others can share similar stories, as Honeyboy played often in his nineties, regaling us with his links to Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Jr. Lockwood, to name just a few. This recording is from the G Spot in Los Angeles in September, 2010, and has Honeyboy accompanied by Jeff Dale & the South Woodlawners, and on a couple of tracks by his long-time friend and manager, Michael Frank. As it turned out, this was the last time Honeyboy was filmed and recorded.
If you have the opportunity, play the DVD first. The camera does an excellent job of zooming in on Honeyboy using his finger and thumb picks as well as a slide on the electric guitar. You also get many close-up views of his vocal approach. He has a rather odd sense of timing and structure to some of his playing, and often played solo like the aforementioned night. So, give Jeff Dale and has small combo credit; they follow attentively and give him ample support while never intruding.
Another outstanding aspect of the DVD is the last installment where Honeyboy gives advice to musicians, mainly not to “overspeed.” He describes playing with Robert Johnson when he himself was only 22. He goes into detail about the night Robert Johnson died. He talks about Charlie Patton dying in 1934 when Honeyboy was only 19. Many other names such as Hubert Sumlin and Big Walter Horton are included in this soliloquy, but lest I spoil it, go ahead and listen.
There’s a warmth and intensity in Honeyboy’s playing and a marvelous sense of humor that comes across in his descriptions of the early days of the blues. There is no substitute, and there won’t be any more opportunities to source history first hand from one of the originals.