followed a limited formula, but it worked time and time again, and his songs, because of their inherent structural simplicity, are among the most versatile in the blues canon, and have been covered by countless blues and pop artists. With his laid-back, slurred singing style stretched over a lazy, easy boogie rhythm and punctuated by short runs on his racked harmonica, Reed
brought a kind of hushed, unhurried urgency to everything he recorded. The lyrics to his songs were actually written by his wife, Mary Lee Reed
, and although she remains in the background on his records, they were very much a songwriting team, turning out such enduring classics as "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," "Big Boss Man," "Bright Lights, Big City," and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby," the first two of which are included in this collection. Reed
's biggest successes came with Chicago's Vee-Jay Records, and he stuck with the label until it folded in 1966, even sticking with them through a brief resurgence as Exodus Records, but eventually he signed with ABC-Paramount's Bluesway imprint, and he ended his recording career in the early '70s on Roker Records. Everything Reed
recorded is cut from the same cloth, though, and this set includes rare late-career tracks that sound pretty much like the sides he did in his prime Vee-Jay years. Reed
was testament to the notion that simple and direct may really be the best path to the river. Well, here's a stretch of that river. Dive in anywhere.