A Real Mother Fuyer
Ma Rainey: Heroes of the Blues: The Very Best of Ma Rainey (Shout! Factory '03)
Because she recorded for the famously cheapjack Paramount label, connecting with the woman that label dubbed "The Mother of the Blues" can be tough‑-cleaned up though they were, many vinyl-era reissues sound like she's singing behind a closed door. But specialists generally single out Yazoo's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom vinyl as a significant improvement, the CD version improves on that, and this much later collection improves on the Yazoo. This is easy to tell because five of Yazoo's 14 selections are also among Shout! Factory's 16, including the actively catchy warhorse "Oh Papa Blues." Just one example of Rainey's commitment to the Southern tent-show circuit, where she thrived for two decades before she began recording at 37, is her transformation of the lines Bessie Smith rendered as the copyrighted but unidiomatic "And if you care for me/You will listen to my plea" into the wilder "I'm almost goin' insane/I'm forever tryin' to call his name." But her peak was the braggadocious "Prove It on Me Blues," where the third verse catches me up every time: "Went out last night with a crowd of my friends/They must have been women 'cause I don't like no men." Because Rainey was muffled in the studio and assigned second-rate songs, she signifies most readily as history‑-black history, women's history, musical history. But because she reveled in a roughness avoided by the showgirls who put their names on so much classic blues, and because she felt natural fronting jug bands and ad hoc New Orleans ensembles, the soul, grit, and fun she was full of get closer to the surface with every advance in mastering technology. A MINUS
Ma Rainey: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Yazoo '91)
Kills me to find among the nine songs unavailable on the Shout! Factory alternative neither the jug-band-with-piano "Hustlin' Blues," where she turns her pimp over to the law, nor the loose-limbed New Orleans "Sissy Blues," where her man samples transvestite jellyroll. But they do include the title song, a historically accurate alternative to the identically named August Wilson play without which the album would not exist, "Sleep Talking Blues," in which revenge doesn't cheer her up much, and "Shave 'Em Dry Blues," in which adultery is quick, hard, and good for what ails her. B PLUS
OK, I replaced the .cda files with .mp3's so if you'd like a copy of the following playlist, here's the link:
Country Blues: The Legendary Earl Blues Performers: Classic Recordings from the 1920s and 1930s
Compiled by JY 2010, Artwork by R. Crumb
1. Big Bill Broonzy - Long Tall Mama
2. Garfield Akers - Cottonfield Blues Pt. 1
3. Tommy Johnson - Canned Heat Blues
4. Blind Willie McTell - Broke Down Engine Blues
5. Skip James - Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues
6. Ma Rainey - Prove It On Me Blues
7. Blind Blake - One Time Blues
8. Charlie Patton - High Water Everywhere Pt. 1
9. Memphis Jug Band - Cave Man Blues
10. Sleepy John Estes - Someday Baby Blues
11. Blind Willie Johnson - Nobody's Fault But Mine
12. Blind Lemon Jefferson - Black Snake Moan
13. Memphis Minnie - Call the Fire Wagon
14. Rev. Gary Davis - Great Change in Me
15. Mississippi John Hurt - Got the Blues, Can't Be Satisfied
16. Cannon's Jug Stompers - Madison Street Rag
17. Robert Wilkins - That's No Way to Get Along
18. Henry Thomas - Bull Doze Blues
Also, following that rule, if the material is archival and has never been released, it is eligible.
Love the 4 Todd Sniders in the non-jazz Top 100 btw.
That's the most I expect, and the most I want from a more mature Taylor Swift. I can understand finding it too clunky, though.
By the way, DownBeat's Reader's Poll is open until tomorrow. Link and comments chez moi.
I was sure Americana was a bad idea before I heard it, so that tells you how good my conclusion jumping is, but from a musical perspective this --
"Cee Lo Green has put a twist on the Ramones punk classic "Blitzkrieg Bop" for TV's "Thursday Night Football" anthem.
Green's "I Love Football" will lead into big games during the upcoming NFL season, which begins next month",
seems like a real stretch. Guess we'll see.
I last read it when I was 25 or so, about fifteen years ago, but I'm picking up lots of stuff I didn't before. Believe it or not, it totally went over my head that Randolph was both gay and a tranvestite. And Joel's queerness, as well. Man, I was a naive kid. Obviously, those tibits are the making of the whole book.
My favorite Capote by far is In Cold Blood, which I'll also re-read soon. A masterful book, even if he made a great deal of it up. That's why they call it "fiction."
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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