Various Artists

Shout It Out Sister: The Great Female Blues Singers

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It's easy for Europeans to assemble solid -- and often great -- genre compilations that span decades, artists, and labels, simply because in many cases their copyright laws are different from those in the United States, where most of the vintage blues and jazz recordings originated. That said, while there is no denying that artists' estates are being ripped off wholesale, fans and collectors take delight in the many offerings on the "legit" market from overseas. Often, because no royalties are being paid, price points on CDs are attractively low while the aesthetic quality remains high -- check Proper and JSP, for example. This double-disc set from Primo in the Czech Republic is another case in point: there are 40 cuts here, both well-known and reasonably obscure, by female blues singers from the 1920s through to the mid-'50s. The sound quality is quite good considering that no original masters were used -- only existing digital masters and in some cases vinyl 78s -- and the price is more than attractive. In fact, you could call this set an outright "steal." The music ranges in subgenre from gospel-blues ("The Night Before Judgement Day" by Miss Rhapsody) to jump blues ("Wedding Boogie" by Little Esther) to jazz-blues ("Stormy Weather" by Lena Horne) to dirty blues ("If It Don't Fit [Don't Force It]" by Barrelhouse Annie and "Big Long Slidin' Thing" by Dinah Washington, to name just two of many). Well-known artists from Victoria Spivey and Big Mama Thornton are here, as are more obscure ones such as Cleo Gibson, Varetta Dillard, and Albinia Jones. Any way you cut it, these are great tracks, in an incredible sequence covering a vast array of blues styles by most of the foundational talents in the genre. Recommended, even though this is a bootleg.

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