Jesse Fuller: Working On The Railroad (Mississippi/Secret Seven Records)

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Jesse Fuller
Working On The Railroad
Mississippi Records/Secret Seven Records

Working On The Railroad is a relatively rare ten inch record from California blues/folk/one-man band Jesse Fuller, and its reissue is very much a welcome thing. Fuller is mostly known for writing the folk standard “San Francisco Bay Blues,” but he’s also known for his unique arrangements—a one-man band, he invented a foot-controlled bass called a fotdella, which is on display here. It’s an ingenious device, and it adds a wonderful depth to Fuller’s music—an already joyful sound thanks to his infectious and enjoyable kazoo playing.

Recorded in 1954, the six songs found here all involve the railroad in some manner—from finding employment on the rails (“Lining Up The Track”) to working on the railroad (“Railroad Worksong”) to missing one’s  baby (“San Francisco Bay Blues,” “Railroad Blues,” “Hangin’ Round A Skin Game”). It’s also impossible to listen to Fuller without being reminded of Bob Dylan, who apparently borrowed much of his style from Fuller.

Fuller is a legend of the folk and blues scene, for good reason; he was a masterful storyteller, a unique personality, and a visionary musician. It’s hard not to hear his influence on future musicians, and the six songs and twenty -five minutes of Working On The Railroad is pure delight, and an excellent introduction to a unique talent.

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