The two principals on this CD, singer-pianist Monkey Joe (whose real name was Jesse Coleman) and vocalist Roosevelt Scott are completely forgotten today beyond their recordings. Monkey Joe was active in Chicago during the late 1930s and he recorded enough material to fill one-and-a-half CDs (including Vol. 1 in this series). The 13 titles of his that are on this disc are from just two sessions, and in fact ten of the selections date from September 13, 1939. Mixing together hokum and lowdown blues, and ranging in style (as the liner notes accurately state) from Peetie Wheatstraw to Washboard Sam, Monkey Joe displays plenty of spirit throughout his performances. His backup group includes altoist Buster Bennett (whose jump style is a little reminiscent of Pete Brown), sometimes Big Bill Broonzy on guitar, and either Blind John Davis or Monkey Joe himself on piano. Alfred Elkins is listed as playing "vocal bass" which might very well be him blowing into a jug. Roosevelt Scott received his two opportunities to record thanks to Monkey Joe talking the label into featuring him. Scott's first four selections are from the same day as Monkey Joe's ten, and uses Joe on piano, guitarist Willie B. James, and Elkins. The other eight numbers by Scott again have Joe, plus drummer Fred Williams. Roosevelt Scott is actually a better singer than Monkey Joe, and it is surprising that he apparently never had another opportunity to record again. He worked in Chicago throughout the '40s before dropping out of music although he was interviewed in the '70s. While Monkey Joe and Roosevelt Scott were not innovators or influential, they were fine performers and it is very good that their complete output has been reissued by Document.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow