The blues has always been in utility a dance music, and when it collided with jazz and emerged in the mid-'40s as jump blues, any pretense that it was anything else went out the window. Jump blues celebrated as much as it bemoaned, espousing a sort of "life sucks, so let's dance" stance that resulted in remarkably infectious songs which often used humor to set the mood and tell the tale. This delightful collection of '40s and '50s jump blues sides spotlights that humorous bent, and features several performers, like Redd Foxx, who actually went on to have successful careers as comedians. These aren't one-dimensional novelty tracks, though, and even Foxx proves in songs like 1946's "Shame on You" that he can sing and belt it out in front of a band just fine. Any preconceptions that the blues has to be all doom and gloom will definitely be dashed here as amusing tracks like Harry "The Hipster" Gibson's "Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?" from 1946 or Effie Smith's "Champagne Mind (With Soda Water Income)" roll by complete with honking horn sections. Little Arthur Matthews' swampy, Slim Harpo-like "I'm Gonna Whale on You" from 1955 is a vicious, delicious delight and a true lost gem. Scatman Crothers' "Papa (I Don't Treat That Little Girl Mean)" is another revelatory track, particularly for those who only know Crothers from his later incarnation as a comic-relief character actor. There are even a couple of early Sammy Davis, Jr. tracks here from when he was billing himself as Shorty Muggins. Amusing, uncommonly joyous, infectious and memorable, the sides collected on Laughin' at the Blues not only dispel the myth that the blues is the musical equivalent of an endlessly dark and rainy day, they also rock like crazy, underscoring a hidden truth about the form. You don't sit and listen to the blues. You dance to it.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett