Sippie Wallace

Mighty Tight Woman

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Mighty Tight Woman from 1967 represents the unusual marriage of the classic blues era with the urban folk revival of the '60s, pitting a couple of blues legends with their improbable inheritors. The star of the album is Sippie Wallace, one of the original "red hot mamas" of the '20s and '30s vaudeville circuit, who cut her first record ("Up the Country") in 1923; rediscovered in 1965 and performing again, she is joined here by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, with whom she also teamed up for a couple of live shows. The record attracted little attention, but it did manage to showcase the abilities and personality of the 69-year-old blueswoman, who surely enjoyed strutting her stuff with her young white hippie admirers; furthermore, four tracks boast first-rate accompaniment by Otis Spann, Muddy Waters' exemplary pianist. On these tracks, above all, Wallace seems wonderfully in her element. The Jug Band themselves have the good sense to remain on the sidelines for the most part (compared with their usual over-the-top exuberance), allowing the veteran Wallace to do her own thing, performing in classic blues style. The album's repertoire consists largely of Wallace's earlier tunes, including "Up the Country," "Special Delivery," and the title track; also included is her tribute to the modern-day Joe Lewis, Mohammed Ali. In the final cut -- the jazz standard "Everybody Loves My Baby (But My Baby Don't Love Nobody But Me)" -- Kweskin and company do join in full swing, offering a magnificent duet between kazoo and comb; the band also fares pretty well on "Separation Blues," in which vocalist Maria Mulduar lends a nice support to Wallace's refrain. All in all, Mighty Tight Woman is not a must-have on anyone's list, but it is probably much more overlooked than it deserves. The unlikely three-way collaboration shows a more serious and subtle side of Kweskin's Jug Band, and -- most importantly -- it provides a welcome new vehicle and audience for both Wallace and Spann, two legitimate blues masters.

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