Fat Possum Records and Amazon Music are partnering to release Worried Blues, 10 albums of rare, long out-of-print recordings from such historic Delta blues artists as Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, R.L. Burnside, Reverend Gary Davis and Honeyboy Edwards.
The bulk of the titles, set for release on July 21, were originally recorded in the ‘60s and early ‘70s by Adelphi Records founder and blues scholar Gene Rosenthal and musicologist/guitarist John Fahey after they sought out these Mississippi Delta blues titans, some of whom had not recorded in more than 30 years. Adelphi first released the albums on CD in the ‘90s, making them available for a very limited time. This is the first time the music will by available on vinyl, as well as widely released.
Billboard is exclusively previewing a sampler featuring all 10 artists in the Worried Blues canon.
The collection is the latest in an ongoing collaboration between Fat Possum and Amazon Music Originals. “One of our goals at Amazon Music is exposing meaningful music for our customers, and a big part of that is elevating music which might otherwise go unnoticed,” Amazon Music’s Global Head of Programming & Content Strategy Alex Luke tells Billboard. “Fat Possum has long maintained a reputation for discovering and releasing incredible music. This collaborative collection gives us both an opportunity to shine a light on these rare recordings, made by some of the most important blues musicians in history.”
For Fat Possum, Worried Blues is part of a developing arrangement with Adelphi. “We were looking into buying the Adelphi catalog and it was sort of overwhelming,” says Fat Possum founder Matthew Johnson. “So we thought we would start with these titles and see how it goes.”
Johnson declined to reveal the purchase price for the 10 titles, but added that the deal was a natural fit for the Oxford, Miss.-based label, given that so many of the artists are from “our back yard. This is what we started the label for.”
Each release is devoted to a single artist. The recordings have been remastered for the July 21 street date, many from the original master tapes, some of which had to be baked to restore them.
The recordings, which highlight the diversity and range of the artists coming out of the area, will be released largely as they originally were in the ‘90s, although Johnson says some titles have been amended with material added or subtracted.
Amazon has a window of exclusivity — Luke declined to say for how long — on the streaming and digital rights. Fat Possum and Amazon will both sell the albums in the CD format, while Fat Possum will make vinyl available via its Website, mail order and brick-and-mortal retail outlets. Digital titles are priced at $9.99, CDs at $11.99 and vinyl at $18.98. The 10 albums will be sold separately and will not be bundled together.
Worried Blues comes at a time when attention is also being paid to these pioneering blues artists through such series as the PBS documentary, American Epic.