Release date: December 7, 2018
Legendary St. Louis country bluesman’s 1980 album remastered from original tapes with 8 previously unissued tracks
Henry Jesse “Mule” Townsend made his first recordings for Columbia Records in 1929. His history incorporates much of the St. Louis blues story and provides insight into the development of the ensemble style of postwar Chicago blues. He was born in Shelby, Mississippi in 1909 and moved to St. Louis circa 1921 and began playing guitar a few years later under the tutelage of pioneer figures Dudlow Joe, Son Ryan, and Henry Spaulding. In 1931 he recorded for both Paramount Records and Victor/Bluebird, an association with the latter lasted until 1938. His vocal performances appeared credited to Henry Townsend, Jesse Townsend, and Henry Thomas, but it was in his role as accompanist that Henry reached his widest audience, appearing on dozens of Walter Davis, Big Joe Williams, Pinetop Sparks, Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk sides including classics like “Baby Please Don’t Go” (Big Joe Williams) and “Every Day I Have The Blues” (Pinetop Sparks).
Henry’s close association with Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson gave him an important role in the very beginnings of the Chicago ensemble style which Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Big Joe Williams originated. After Henry’s discharge from the army in 1944, he moved to Chicago (following Nighthawk and Williamson) and found himself performing with Little Walter, Othum Brown, and Eddie Boyd. He returned to St. Louis in 1947 and renewed his long association with Walter Davis. They recorded for Bullet Records of Nashville in 1949 and Victor in 1952. In the ’60s he made an album for the Prestige Bluesville imprint and a mid-’70s album appeared on Adelphi.
“Mule” appeared in 1980 on the St. Louis Nighthawk Records label. The label was to turn its attention to reggae after 1980, but had started as a blues label in 1976 releasing a series of blues compilation albums leading up to “Mule.” From the original album: “The production of this record was undertaken with two goals in mind: to create, finally, an album worth of Henry Townsend’s unique genius, and thus secure for him the recognition that an artist of his stature and historical importance deserves. We at Nighthawk have become convinced that Henry is perhaps the greatest living country bluesman.”
This reissue follows those same sentiments and goals, and enhances the original release with eight previously unissued bonus tracks from the album sessions. “Mule” also includes updated liner notes and photos from original co-producer and Nighthawk founder, Leroy Jodie Pierson, who has co-produced with Grammy® Award-winner, Cheryl Pawelski to create this definitive edition. The album has been remastered from the original tapes by Grammy® Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves.
Bad Luck Dice Things Have Changed The Old Man’s Soul Tears Come Rollin’ Down It’s A Hard Road To Travel Talkin’ Guitar Blues I’m Just An Ordinary Man Alley Strut Can’t You See Dark Clouds Rising The Train Is At The Station Overstayed My Time The Other Night Broken Home Blues Going Back To My Baby Nice And Kind Goin’ Back Down South Turned On And Off Look Over Yonder Since You’ve Come Back Home