Any Woman's Blues

Various Artists

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Any Woman's Blues Review

by Thom Jurek

Any Woman's Blues is another of Rounder Records' endless attempts to pat themselves on the back and pocket some bread in the process. According to one of their own, who writes an alternate set of liner notes in the package, this album is intended to be a "celebration" of 30 years of women in blues on Rounder. Pardon my intense skepticism. This is an attempt to make consumers aware of their catalog of female artists -- and it is a deep catalog, which is their only real asset as a label. Here, ranging from 1972 to the year 2000, are tracks by Maria Muldaur (hardly an exclusive Rounder artist), Irma Thomas, Tracy Nelson, Rory Block, Ann Peebles, Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli, Barbara Lynn, Miki Honeycut, Ruth Brown, Michelle Wilson, Candye Kane, and Kim Nalley. Thomas makes no less than three appearances as a solo artist and performs two duets; Nelson makes two, as does Ball. This reeks of bottom-of-the-barrel compilation farming. Far from classic tunes by these women, rather "obscure" or filler cuts are offered, overlooked because they far from represent the best of an artist. Rounder is so cynical in their belief that you will buy this they didn't even follow the lead that every other successful cynical label has offered; there are no rarities to entice seasoned blues listeners to purchase this. As great a singer as Angela Strehli is, can Rounder really tell us that "Go On" is her finest moment in the blues, or that a goddess like Tracy Nelson's finest solo moment as a blues singer is "Sing Me to the 'Lectric Chair"? C'mon. And as for Ball, who released a string of winner albums in the '90s, the very best you can offer us is "Mama's Cookin'"? How about Ann Peebles or Ruth Brown? Examples don't even need to be cited because these tunes aren't them. Sorry, this is unacceptable. The vision of the blues offered here by all of these giants of the feminine gender persuasion is strictly packaged for the middle-of-the-road or beginning listener who has little or no experience with the Rounder catalog, and has nothing whatsoever to do with celebrating "women in blues," as much as it tries to reach consumers who not have been exposed to the truly excellent offerings these artists put across on some of their records for the label and their offshoots. With the notable exception of Ball and Block, most of these women have recorded their best work for other labels anyway. This is not worth your recreational dollar folks, pure and simple; it's just another cynical exercise by a record label trying to make money by not giving you that dollar's true worth.

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