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Queen of Country Blues

Memphis Minnie

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Album Review

This five-disc set from JSP includes all the surviving sides Memphis Minnie cut for the Vocalion, Decca, and Bluebird labels between 1929 and 1937 in chronological order. Among the highlights on disc one are the four takes of one of her best songs, "Bumble Bee," including one with the Memphis Jug Band. Disc two gathers a number of duets with her then-husband, Kansas Joe McCoy, and their twin guitars coupled with her contralto singing and Kansas Joe's tenor made for a signature sound. Disc three contains another of her best songs, "My Butcher Man," and features increased use of piano backing. The fourth disc contains her last sessions for Decca, as well as her complete body of work on the Bluebird label. The final disc, which spotlights the occasional use of horns and other urban trappings, includes versions of "Ice Man," "Hoodoo Woman," and "Black Cat Blues." Minnie's best-known song, "When the Levee Breaks," is not included in this set, which also does not include her last sessions from 1940 and 1941. Truthfully, there is probably more Memphis Minnie here than the casual listener would ever need, and a single-disc collection that spans her career (and includes "Levee") would suffice. Liner notes are so-so, although the session annotation is decent.

Biography

Born: 03 June 1897 in Algiers, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s

Tracking down the ultimate woman blues guitar hero is problematic because woman blues singers seldom recorded as guitar players and woman guitar players (such as Rosetta Tharpe and Sister O.M. Terrell) were seldom recorded playing blues. Excluding contemporary artists, the most notable exception to this pattern was Memphis Minnie. The most popular and prolific blueswoman outside the vaudeville tradition, she earned the respect of critics, the support of record-buying fans, and the unqualified praise...
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