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A body of work to celebrate

By Professor Longhair

Rhino Records: 1993

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This review first appeared in the February 11, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

For many blues lovers, Henry Roeland Byrd, aka Professor Longhair – or, more affectionately, 'Fess – embodied the musical spirit of New Orleans. With his rollicking barrelhouse approach to piano, distinctively syncopated rhythms and trademark high-pitched singing voice, Byrd was a true original.

Despite never having had a record label to call home for any length of time, and despite not finding real fame until late in life, Longhair nevertheless left behind a stellar body of work.

This new, two-CD set is of unusually consistent quality, in large part due to the outstanding caliber of Longhair albums issued by Alligator, Rounder, Windham and Atlantic – all of which are represented here. This collection traces his career from the late '40s up through his death in 1980. The gap in the '60s? No label was interested in Longhair then, and he had taken work as a school janitor.