Blues compilations are often bad ideas. Many are simply collections of session leftovers or are recordings from unknown musicians who were unknown for a reason. But the redundantly titled "American Blues Vol. 1" (is there really any other kind?) is a sublime exception. Culled from Stan Lewis' family of labels, the album is a sterling collection of gritty postwar blues, performed by some of music's legends.
Buddy Guy's falsetto and broken-glass guitar runs give an edge to "The Way You've Been Treating Me" while Texas boogie master Lightnin' Hopkins' nicotine baritone wakes up "Breakfast Time." B.B. King and Jimmy Reed offer up excellent standards, while Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Reed and T. Bone Walker wrap their R&B in some silky swing. Sonny Boy Williamson's sly reading of "Steady Rollin' Man" is the only nod to acoustic blues in this excellent collection.