Some musicologists have compared country to the the blues because of their humorous approach to life's challenges and disappointments, and one could also draw a parallel between the frankness of the blues and hip-hop's blunt lyrics, especially when it comes to relationships. Much like the hip-hoppers of the 1980s and '90s, the blues artists of the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s didn't exactly go out of their way to present a squeaky-clean sugarcoated view of relationships. Topics like infidelity, adultery, promiscuity, casual sex, venereal disease, and lust were fair game for blues artists, who tended to use double entendres instead of being as explicit as rappers (although Lucille Bogan's "Shave 'Em Dry" was as X-rated as anything by Lil' Kim). The songs on this compilation, which spans 1921-1944, aren't overly explicit but do have a certain candor when it comes to love, romance, and, in some cases, just plain sex. Messed Up in Love focuses on a variety of acoustic, pre-World War II blues styles and ranges from the jazz-influenced classic female blues of Mamie Smith's "U Need Some Lovin' Blues" (1921) and Bessie Smith's "It Makes My Love Come Down" (1929) to the Southern country blues of Blind Willie McTell's "Love Makin' Mama" (1933), Lonnie Johnson's "Careless Love" (1928), and Barbecue Bob's "Beggin' for Love" (1928). Meanwhile, Big Bill Broonzy's "Messed Up in Love" (1939) and Curtis Jones' "Moonlight Lover Blues" (1940) are perfect examples of the type of acoustic Chicago blues that paved the way for Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Overall, the sound quality is decent for 78-era recordings, mildly scratchy, but much better than it would have been if Legacy's digital remastering hadn't filtered out a lot of the noise, pops, and ticks associated with that time. This collection is highly recommended for lovers of acoustic blues.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson