Annette Hanshaw

Ain't She Sweet

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Annette Hanshaw was one of the very first white women to sing jazz convincingly. Unfettered by notions of glamour, she was so self-critical that her style could be said to have arisen, in part, from a sense of humility, something markedly absent from the performance personalities of her contemporaries Ruth Etting and Ethel Waters. Hanshaw handled most songs with an easy and pleasantly stylized candor. Sounds of Yesteryear's Ain't She Sweet presents 27 chestnuts from her sizable recorded legacy. (Sound quality is satisfactory; other compilations have employed more consistent remastering techniques.) Waxed between 1926 and 1931, these vintage sides find her accompanied by capable pianists, hot jazz combinations, and sweet little pit orchestras with sentimentalizing strings attached. Some of this vocalist's best performances seem to have been inspired by upbeat songs describing attractive boyfriends. Examples on this collection include "I'm Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now," "Mine All Mine," and "Ain't He Sweet," with lyrics specially adapted to suit the perceived needs of gender specificity. "What Do I Care" underwent no such alteration, and the result might easily be enjoyed as a tribute to women who prefer the company of women. "Button Up Your Overcoat" is done up in Betty Boop baby talk as a weirdly accurate Helen Kane impersonation -- in fact, Hanshaw could be said to have out-Kaned the original. Tendered in an infinitely more subtle and beatific vein, "Body and Soul" is a lovely example of a moonlit love ballad rendered to perfection. This singer was capable of performing miracles. "Walking My Baby Back Home" is a pleasant and heartwarming tune; when sung by Annette Hanshaw the effect is borderline euphoric.

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