Clara Smith

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 3 (1925)

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During the year 1925, blues singer Clara Smith cut some two dozen sides for the Columbia Record company. Six of these featured the cornet of young Louis Armstrong and so exist among the finest performances that this woman managed to leave for posterity. With empathetic support from Armstrong, trombonist Big Charlie Green, and pianist Fletcher Henderson, her treatment of Tom Delaney's "Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning" is a blue ritual of arresting poignancy that reaches a pensive extreme with the singer's stated wish that she could slay her abuser with the force and velocity of an express locomotive. Between the two sessions involving Armstrong, Smith also sang two numbers by Edgar Dowell ("Broken Busted Blues" and "My John Blues"), Spencer Williams' "Shipwrecked Blues," and her own "Court House Blues," which she recorded in two takes. The other potent surprise in this package is "My Man Blues," a third duet with Bessie Smith (for their earlier collaborations, see volume one). Had it been issued at the time, the flipside would have given us their version of "Down Old Georgia Way," but that recording is not included here and may have vanished entirely. Unfortunately the two singers would never work together again after getting into a heated argument during which Bessie slugged Clara. Although each volume in this series is excellent and well worth investigating, volume three can be particularly satisfying, because (apart from the tussle with Bessie), 1925 was a good year for this singer. In addition to Henderson, her pianists included Porter Grainger, Lemuel Fowler, Stanley Miller, and Mike Jackson. Violinist Leon Abbey is heard on tracks three and four; "My Good-For-Nothin' Man" features mouth organist Herbert Leonard and guitarist Leonard Myers; Bob Fuller blows clarinet and alto sax on tracks 14 and 15, and Clara is supported by trombonist Teddy Nixon and clarinetist Prince Robinson on "The Market Street Blues" and "It Takes the Lawd (To Tell What's on My Mind)."

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