The second half of Savoy's very fine blues vocal compilation is different from the first volume in some respects, most important in that the majority of the material on this set had yet to be released. Two holdovers from the first volume are Albinia Jones and Maybelle Smith, who works under an appropriate nom de stage, Big Maybelle, which she was both physically and vocally. The material here is not the traditional 12-bar blues, but more contemporary material with blues feeling added. The major accompaniments therefore are horns rather than guitar or harmonica, with some played by musicians more often associated with jazz. Newcomers include Helen Humes, who recreates her big hit, "E-Baba-Le-Ba," albeit a much truncated version from her original offering. Little Miss Sharecropper, who grew up to be LaVern Baker, is here with the first tracks she recorded as a soloist, those for the National label, giving listeners a peek at what was to come. An attraction of the Dolly Cooper sides is the presence of legendary guitarist Lonnie Johnson. In contrast to Cooper's short-lived career is Annie Laurie's, whose recording life began in the late '50s and ended in the '60s. On some of the cuts, Laurie is fortunate to have the great Budd Johnson playing the baritone sax, an instrument which was important in this blues style. Varetta Dillard on occasion sang with a soul inflection, as on "Johnny Is Gone." The Big Maybelle sides are a continuation of the session that was included on volume one of this series. Both volumes are classics in their field. Some record company could perform a valuable public service by reissuing them in a two-CD set. Given both sets were engineered by the inestimable Rudy Van Gelder, transferring shouldn't present a problem.
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan