The two-disc, 36-track ESSENTIAL VICTORIA SPIVEY collects recordings from the Texas blues matriarch's initial burst of studio activity, the 1926-1937 sessions that made her a legend. In fact, the rediscovery of these songs allowed her to resurface during the '60s blues revival and begin a second career on the college and coffeehouse circuit.
What makes Spivey's dirty blues recordings from this period sound more enticing and/or shocking (depending upon one's perspective) than those by Ma Rainey is the simple fact that Spivey, who wasn't even 20 when she started performing, has the voice of an extremely naughty angel. Even though "Dope Head Blues" and "Dirty T.B. Blues," for example, are clearly the work of a steely, cool customer who worked the Texas juke-joint and brothel circuit, Spivey's sweet, almost bubbly voice makes pain and degradation sound strangely entertaining. Though not comprehensive--her first single, 1926's "Black Snake Blues," is missing, replaced by a later re-recording featuring Lonnie Johnson on guitar--THE ESSENTIAL VICTORIA SPIVEY is perfect for the casual fan who doesn't want to commit to a multi-disc career overview.