Various Artists

Female Blues: The Remaining Titles

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During the 1990s, the Document label put out more than a dozen anthologies of early female blues singers, reissuing for the first time a large number of rare records by women who are mainly remembered today by archivists, historians, and inquisitive listeners who appreciate opportunities to hear music recorded so very long ago. In 1997, to cap the series, 24 "Remaining Titles" were compiled on one disc, knitting together performances dating from the years 1921-1928. Several of these women performed in the theatrical style of Mamie Smith or Lucille Hegamin. Lena Wilson, who was married to violinist Shrimp Jones, had a bluesier, more intimate approach, as did Laura Smith, a thoroughly grounded individual who is heard with a New Orleans contingent led by Clarence Williams. Sister Harris, it is believed, was Estelle Harris, a popular entertainer in Memphis during the years 1910-1913 now regarded as one of the very first African-American vaudeville vocalists to cultivate a following by singing the blues. Ethel Finnie (whose punchy delivery recalls that of Leola B. "Coot" Grant) is accompanied by her husband Porter Grainger, and Lavinia Turner is backed by James P. Johnson's Harmony Seven. Other instrumentalists in this collection are identified as pianists Fletcher Henderson, Louis Hooper, Eddie Heywood, Sr., and Cliff Jackson; banjoist Elmer Snowden, clarinetist Bob Fuller, trombonist Jake Frazier, and cornetist Louis Metcalf. Like many Document compilations, this little stash of historic entertainments is packed with fascinating moments. The lineup includes Hazel Meyers and Josie Miles, old-time singers whose "complete" recordings have been carefully compiled under their own names by Document; Monette Moore, best remembered today for her work with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra; Sara Martin and Rosa Henderson, fine singers who made records with Fats Waller and James P. Johnson, and Rosetta Crawford who recorded during the 1920s and '30s with Sidney Bechet and Mezz Mezzrow.

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