This document of Smith's first year in the studio reveals a blues giant in full command of her talents. And while later dates -- especially the epochal 1925 sessions with Louis Armstrong -- offer more in the way of the era's horn-blowing royalty, these early sides nicely showcase Smith in the unadorned company of a variety of top pianists like Clarence Williams and Fletcher Henderson. The Empress of the Blues flexes her vocal muscle throughout, ranging from Broadway fare like "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" to the dark-hued rumblings of "Graveyard Dream Blues." She also revels in the provocative ambiguities of "Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll" and puts her stamp on the future blues warhorse "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do." From the opening strain of her first best-seller, "Downhearted Blues," until the end of the disc, lovers of classic female blues will find plenty here to keep them enthralled.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook