Lil Greenwood

Walking & Singing the Blues

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This 22-track compilation neatly gathers everything Lil Greenwood recorded for Modern and Federal in the early '50s, though it doesn't have anything from her brief run with Specialty. It also contains four demo-sounding Modern sides, with piano serving as the only accompaniment, which haven't been issued until now. On some of this disc, Greenwood sings somewhere between jazz and blues-R&B: her earthy tone is more blues, yet her phrasing and sometimes the arrangements can owe a lot to the likes of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. It's respectable stuff, though to be frank it's not a surprise that she didn't take off as a huge hitmaker, since many of the songs stick to generic chord progressions and standard R&B-blues melodic and lyrical ideas. When she gets a chance to tackle an up-tempo number she can cook, as she does on the swinging "I'm Goin' Crazy," and especially on the live-sounding "Open Your Eyes," which has a frenetic immediacy missing from much California studio R&B of the era. But the slower-to-mid-tempo numbers are weaker, though she's good at projecting despondency on the moody "Ain't Gonna Cry." Little Willie Littlefield harmonizes with her on the ballad "Monday Morning Blues," which is indicative of the slightly slicker production of the Federal sides that followed her stint with Modern and used a good amount of doo wop-styled backup vocals.

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