Sid Selvidge: The Cold of the Morning (Omnivore Reissue)
Mississippi-raised, St. Louis-honed, and Memphis-tested, Selvidge was a true rarity: a white singer who could expertly interpret classic blues (here, “Judge Boushe”and “East St. Louis Blues” via Furry Lewis, the happily nasty “Keep It Clean” from Charley Jordan) without a hint of minstrelsy, a folkie with a great voice who could deliver material without sounding, in the words of Allen Lowe, like he had a napkin folded in his lap, and a catholic music-lover who could shift styles and genres without strain (from “Danny Boy” to “Po’ Laz’rus” to “The Great Atomic Power” is some mileage). Selvidge passed from cancer in 2013, and this recording, along with his Elektra Twice-Told Tales from the early ’90s, is a great way to get caught up. Bonuses: Selvidge’s stellar picking (learned at the foot of Lewis) and a batch of cuts where he’s backed by the eccentric rhythms of Mudboy and the Neutrons. How to explain Sid to the benighted? His baritone is as flexible as George Jones’, and, if you’d agree that Hank and Lefty were at the heart of The Possum’s vocal art, well, Tommy Johnson is the at the core of Selvidge’s. You may have to look that one up. Let’s hope Omnivore reissues the rest of Sid’s Peabody rekkids, which are very, very hard to come by.