March 27, 2012
The late Frank Floyd has hard times and raunchy humor to relate on this album, recorded in 1972 after a long period of retirement and released late last year from the Adelphi blues vaults. Floyd recorded his first Chess single of old-time country blues for Sam Phillips in 1951, and with “Swamp Root” had some minor success with Sun Records. As an older performer, and one whose songs harked back to both black minstrelsy and white hillbilly music of the 1920s, Floyd saw his records mistaken for “race music” as Elvis and rock’n’roll took over. Years later, Floyd re-emerged from farm life to play folk heritage festivals, and recorded this in 1972, at age 66. Accompanying himself on harmonica and guitar, and still sounding like he stepped right out of the 1920s — foot tapping, single-note strumming, harmonica wailing — Floyd arranges two of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodels” here, as well as singing some outrageously bawdy songs (“Shampoo,” “Mosquito Bar Britches”). The title track comes from Floyd’s own experiences in late ’20s and ’30s medicine shows — the main entertainment in backroads America at the time. Floyd learned how to please a crowd with jokes and to play harmonica without a rack, the instrument protruding cigar-style from his mouth. Floyd died in 1984, but his performance here effectively captures an era in America’s musical history.