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Get Right Blues

Jessie Mae Hemphill

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Album Review

Until a stroke sidelined her in 1993, Jessie Mae Hemphill may well have been the most accomplished and versatile of the North Mississippi folk-blues musicians who emerged in the early 1980s with a stripped down, primal version of jook blues that was (and is) at stylistic odds with most of the contemporary blues scene (not that Hemphill and company had suddenly started playing this way, just that the rest of the world finally caught up with it). Hemphill, whose grandfather was the legendary Sid Hemphill who recorded some pretty wild and wooly fife and drum-styled classics for Alan Lomax in 1942 and 1959, has a hands-on understanding of the various folk forms of her native hill country, and her soulful, vibrant music is a thing apart. Assembled by folklorist Dr. David Evans, Get Right Blues collects 15 previously unreleased recordings cut by Hemphill in 1979, 1984 and 1985, and the range of blues and spirituals presented here is impressive and inspiring. Part boogie, part folk-gospel revival, part history lesson, this collection doesn't contain a single lame track, and it's amazing that none of these have been released before, since everything here is a stunner. From the ramshackle "Streamline Train" (Hemphill's version of "Mystery Train") that opens the disc through a pair of raw, atmospheric diddley bow pieces ("Little Rooster Reel," "Get Right, Church") and a hushed solo take on Memphis Minnie's "Honey Bee," Hemphill brings a ragged, perfect sense of urgency and soul to everything she touches. Even now, unable to play guitar because of her stroke, Jessie Mae Hemphill can still stun a crowd with just her voice and a foot tambourine. She is indeed a national treasure, and Get Right Blues makes a wonderful introduction to this amazing musician.

Customer Reviews

from the heart

This album is probably as close to the deep south one can get without actually driving down to there to see it in person. The beauty of Hemphill comes from the simplicity of the guitar riffs and the almost hypnotic trance they put the listener in. As she tells her stories, one cannot help but drop whatever they are doing and contemplate the absurdity of life, and paradoxically feel a deepened understanding for the human spirit. Climax is attained in all her big band recordings on songs 1,2,5,10, and 13. The rest of the songs give way to a more intimate experience. Not to be missed by rebels, romantics and those wanting to escape on a hot summer's night.

Biography

Born: October 18, 1934 in Senatobia, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A Mississippi singer/guitarist, Jessie Mae Hemphill weaves strong Delta traditions into her idiosyncratic style. Hemphill comes from a musical background — reportedly, her grandfather was recorded in the fields by Alan Lomax in the '40s. Jessie Mae learned how to play guitar as a child by watching her relatives perform. Throughout the '60s...
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Get Right Blues, Jessie Mae Hemphill
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