The collections of Big Maybelle's sides for the Okeh (The Complete Okeh Sessions 1952-55) and Savoy labels are the most complete and best representative of her career. They are definitely the place to begin a collection of her stunning and powerful body of work. Where the fantastic Okeh disc covers her material from the first half of the '50s, this one compiles her Savoy sides from 1956-1959. While not entirely different from one another, these sessions featured some outstanding sidemen who were not unfamiliar with the Savoy label. Tenormen Frank Rehak and Jerome Richardson, multi-instrumentalist Sahib Shihab, guitarist Kenny Burrell, pianist Hank Jones, and baritone player George Barrow all appeared on bebop dates for the label during this period. The result finds Maybelle's powerful vocals matched by musicianship of a similar order. Every song in this collection is a standard. All are just dripping with feeling and none of them disappoint. While this release's subtitle (Roots of R'n'R, Blues and Early Soul, Vol. 13) might lead one to expect an album of barn-burning scorchers, it actually has a fair number of ballads and even two Christmas tunes. Make no mistake, however; the material on this volume of the very successful Savoy Roots series is tough and hot. Even "White Christmas" is sexy. This is a highly recommended album for fans of early R&B and soul.
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AllMusic Review by Brandon Burke