With a name that sounds like the mumblings of a beginning English student, the slight career of Bea Foote will tempt punsters to make cracks about her being just a Foote-note in blues history. And on the subject of temptation, this artist's choice of subject matter for songs -- primarily reefer and sex -- would not make her the kind of gal you'd want to bring home to mother, unless mom was Bessie Smith, of course. The latter artist is certainly the most famous artist in this style that also includes greats such as Alberta Hunter and Ethel Waters. While the Foote-hold on success can't be compared to these performers, technically she was one of the better singers in the style, boasting a particularly strong vibrato that she put to good use in her recordings with bluesman Sammy Price. The popularity of anthology collections focusing on sexy blues songs have provided a regular outlet for some of her material on a variety of labels, yet even this lucrative market is threatening to be smoked out, so to speak, by an incredible wave of enthusiasm for marijuana songs that began sometime in the mid-'90s, perhaps as an adjunct to the War on Drugs. Foote's song "Weed" has long been considered one of the best, and the latest puff of interest in this subject has included not only reissues on labels such as Stash of her own recording of the song, but a cover version as well by the pot-obsessed Exit 13 band.
by Eugene Chadbourne