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The Famous Moanin' Mama

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Album Review

For Sara Martin's most obsessive fans, the four exhaustive volumes of The Complete Recorded Works that Document assembled in 1996 was a blessing. But not everyone who listens to classic female blues is a completist or a hardcore historian. And for those who have only a casual interest in the singer's legacy, The Famous Moanin' Mama: 1922-1927 would be a more logical choice. This Dutch release contains 22 captivating examples of Martin's work and, as its title indicates, spans 1922-1927. Many of the tracks are essential, including "What More Can a Monkey Woman Do?," "Brother Ben," the sassy "Take Your Black Bottom Outside," and Martin's 1922 performance of the standard "'Tain't Nobody's Business if I Do." Although some of the material contains elements of country blues, Martin was essentially an urban blues artist. Urban blues, of course, didn't start with Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon in Chicago; classic blues, which was heavily influenced by New Orleans and Chicago jazz, often had a big-city outlook. While a country bluesman of the '20s or '30s could be happy with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, classic blues women like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Victoria Spivey, and Martin had a strong appreciation of jazz's sophistication and worked with major jazz improvisers. The material on this 67-minute CD finds Martin being backed by such pre-bop jazz heavyweights as Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet. The latter is heard on soprano sax in 1923, which is 37 years before John Coltrane did so much to popularize that instrument with his 1960 recording of "My Favorite Things." Is The Famous Moanin' Mama: 1922-1927 the last word on Martin's '20s output? No. But for the casual listener, it would be a fine starting point.


Born: May 18, 1884 in Louisville, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s

Known in her heyday as "the blues sensation of the West," the big-voiced Sara Martin was one of the best of the classic female blues singers of the '20s. Martin began her career as a vaudeville performer, switching to blues singing in the early '20s. In 1922, she began recording for OKeh Records, cutting a number of bawdy blues like "Mean Tight Mama." She continued recording until 1928. During this time, Martin became a popular performer on the southern Theater Owners' Booking Association circuits,...
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The Famous Moanin' Mama, Sara Martin
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