Ma Rainey

Complete Recorded Works: 1928 Sessions

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Ma Rainey's final 23 recordings find her stubbornly bucking the tides of stylistic change by working with accompanists who played up the rural folk blues element. Exhibit A is her Tub Jug Washboard Band, a scruffy little outfit securely moored by the sounds of Carl Reid huffing on a whiskey jug with banjo licks by Martell Pettiford, kazoo and washboard by one Herman Brown, and Georgia Tom Dorsey at the piano. The blend of sounds and textures was very successful, and it is this session that gave the world "Hear Me Talking to You," the "Hustlin' Blues," and "Prove It on Me Blues," a proud statement from a woman who prefers the intimate company of other females. With "Daddy Goodbye Blues" Rainey appears like the setting sun as she scales her accompaniment down to Dorsey's piano and some very fine guitar playing by Hudson Whitaker, also known as Tampa Red. These are some of the most authentically bluesy recordings of her entire career. In the refrain from the "Black Eye Blues," an unflinching report on domestic violence, the singer addresses her abuser with the words: "You low down alligator/just watch me, sooner or later/I'll catch you with your britches down." Rainey's last two recordings were duets performed in October and December 1928 with singing banjoist Papa Charlie Jackson. "Ma and Pa Poorhouse Blues" depicts two old friends faced with economic hardship. Charlie Jackson's other important appearance on records was as the gritty vocalist with Freddie Keppard's Jazz Cardinals on the 1926 recording of "Salty Dog." He is the perfect counterpart for Ma Rainey on her very last record.

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