Various Artists

Female Blues: The Remaining Titles, Vol. 2

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In 1997, Document released a 24-track grab bag of rare female blues recordings from the 1920s, presented as a coda to the label's expansive series of Female Blues Singers compilations containing material dating exclusively from the years 1920-1930. In 1998, Document followed suit with a second volume of Female Blues: The Remaining Titles, this time focusing on the years 1938-1949 to top off some of the company's blues, barrelhouse, swing, and early R&B collections. Document 1528 is a decidedly pungent sampler that combines the works of seven powerfully expressive women. Bea Foote, best known for her ostentatiously marijuana induced "Weed" (the song is mistitled "Weeds" in most discographies and on most reissues), sang in a warm vibrato that makes her sound a lot like Alberta Hunter in her early maturity (see Hunter's "The Love I Have for You"). Lil Green is still one of the world's great overlooked heroines of the blues; her most famous recording was "Why Don't You Do Right?" That song launched Peggy Lee's career while Lil Green headed for an early death and posthumous obscurity. Ruby Walker Smith was Bessie Smith's niece and traveling companion; she made a few records of her own with people like Sammy Price, Blind John Davis, and Fats Waller's reedman Eugene Sedric. Perline Ellison sings Nat King Cole's "That Ain't Right" (famously performed in 1943 by Waller and deep-voiced Ada Brown in the motion picture Stormy Weather) and spends much of the flipside threatening her man with a straight-edged razor. Lillie Mae Kirkman made records with the little known Curtis Jones and the famous Memphis Slim, who plays piano behind her on this collection. Big-voiced Muriel Nichols made records under the name of Wee Bea Booze; her treatment of "See See Rider," a traditional blues first popularized on records by Ma Rainey, is quite tasty. The name Monette Moore immediately suggests a link with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra in the mid-'20s. If the Monette Moore heard on this collection is the same woman, she did an amazing job of adapting to the rowdy conventions of postwar jump blues and R&B. The man who verbally jousts with her on "You Don't Live Here No More" is identified as Smokey Whitfield. In addition to those already mentioned, the instrumentalists heard on this excellent album include seasoned jazzmen like trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, pianist James P. Johnson, guitarists Big Bill Broonzy and Teddy Bunn, and drummer Big Sid Catlett.

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