Memphis Minnie

Blues Classics by Memphis Minnie

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This artist recorded more than 200 different sides between the late '20s and late '50s, not bad considering the hard row she had to hoe as one of the few female guitar pickers in the business, let alone a blues player. Despite the obvious presence of women as blues singers, even the commonly used name for a blues musician, "bluesman," defines a masculine gender. While it is considered all right for a woman to have a guitar draped around her neck while looking pretty on stage, the serious female guitar stranglers are few and far between, and can look up to Memphis Minnie as one of their goddesses. She is a great guitarist whose approach to blues is more along the lines of a the fluid versatility of Tampa Red, who she apparently bested in a musical cutting contest once, than the stark intensity of a John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters. Her rhythmic chordal accompaniment has an accuracy in terms of tempo that is sweet and uncanny. This gives her music a swinging feeling that eludes many other blues artists completely. In fact, the amount of momentum achieved without ever really seeming to break a sweat is a marvel here, and could serve as valuable instruction to many an over-baked performer. Her vocal style is marvelously unforced, going through appealing stylistic changes as these tracks jump around between 1929 and 1942, including solos as well as small-band efforts including bass and the piano talents of Black Bob. She is a simply a classic blues artist, and anyone who doesn't believe it can look at this record as sheer evidence. After all, it is not only entitled Blues Classics, it is on the Blues Classics label and is even the first record ever released by this lovable outfit, whose thick and sturdy black-and-white packaging has survived the test of time in terms of both appeal and construction.

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