Label: Document Records.
Release Date: September 7, 2000.
Recording Time: 70 minutes.
Recording Date: 1924 - 1938.
Release Info: Studio Recording.
Releases: September 27, 2005, March 31, 2009.
Styles: Classic Female Blues, Early Jazz.
Featured Artists: Virginia Childs, Anna Lee Chisholm, Lulu Jackson, Eva Parker, Cora Perkins, Ruby Smith.
In the year 2000, as if to celebrate the dawn of the 21st century by revisiting another batch of all but entirely forgotten recordings from the 20th, the Austria-based Document label released a third volume under the heading of Blue Girls, containing 24 performances by six different women (female adults), dating from the years 1924-1938. Fortunately, and unlike certain other volumes in the catalog, none of these rare recordings are too awfully marred by 78-rpm surface noise. The scratchiness that is audible should serve to remind the listener of the original format and may even be preferable to the out of context listening experience that may result from an artificially cleansed transfer. Most or all of the women on this collection exist at the very margins of blues and jazz history. Anna Lee Chisholm seems to have made one two-sided record, for the Paramount label, which was notorious for substandard sound quality, in April of 1924. She sings with power and focus, accompanied on "Cool Kind Daddy Blues" by guitarist Louis Lasky and by pianist J.H. Shayne on "Georgia Sam Blues." Cora Perkins cut a couple of sides for the OKeh label in St. Louis in May 1926. The backing musicians are believed to have been Lonnie Johnson (on violin) and either Lonnie's brother James Johnson (the Missouri musician, not Harlem's James P. Johnson) or Deloise Searcy at the piano. The singer is convincing enough, but the most interesting element is the unidentified mandolin player on "Today Blues." Virginia Childs, who covered Alberta Hunter's "Down Hearted Blues" and chased it with W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," is even more enigmatic. Her one Columbia record, made in Atlanta, GA, in 1926, was issued under the name of Daisy Douglas, and historians are still trying to figure out whether she was dark- or light-skinned (a traditional pastime in the United States of America). The theory that her accompanists were drawn from Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers is interesting, and would mean that the guitarist was likely to have been Riley Puckett, but nobody has been able to verify any of these details.
Speaking of skin pigment and blurry genre distinctions, singing whistler Lulu Jackson has also generated controversy by being an African-American interpreter of country and hillbilly melodies who does not "sound black" in ways that fit the racially encoded coordinates of music as it is thought to be understood by casual listeners and experts alike. She made the recordings heard here for the Vocalion label in Chicago and Indianapolis during the year 1928. Her song list includes "Careless Love" and two of this collection's three versions of the waltz "You're Going to Leave the Old Home, Jim." It is entirely possible that her recordings of these two titles inspired the folks at Victor Records to have Eva Parker make her own versions five months later, backed by the Pace Jubilee Singers. Parker's other two sides, dating from 1926, fit more snugly into the stylistic pigeonhole of classic female blues. Ruby Walker was the niece of Bessie Smith's husband Jack Gee, and her main contribution to history consists of eye- and ear-witness accounts of life with Bessie on the road. In 1938, John Hammond convinced Ruby to change her last name to Smith and begin trying to impersonate her recently deceased aunt. Her very first recordings were made for Victor's Bluebird subsidiary in May 1938, with accompaniment by a pianist whose identity will probably never be verified. While her brave attempt to do justice to her aunt's famous "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair" and a decent cover of Fats Waller's original take on Alex Hill's "Draggin' My Heart Around" have merit, Walker/Smith never managed to make it as a blues or jazz singer, despite later collaborations with James P. Johnson, Sammy Price, and Eugene "Honeybear" Sedric. But it sure is nice to have access to her Bluebird recordings.
Review by arwulf arwulf.
The success in the twenties of Ma Rainey, the blues singing Smiths (Mamie, Bessie, Clara and Trixie) and others like Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, Lizzie Miles, Sara Martin and Bertha "Chippie" Hill, spawned a whole host of "want to be" female blues singers. It is no exaggeration to say that thousands of blues were recorded during that period, many by unknowns and, as one contemporary critic observed, "Every phonograph company has a colored girl recording". Which was hardly surprising since most black newspapers of the time were full of with notices detailing the exploits of vaudevillian singers and carrying advertisements from record companies boasting that they alone possessed ,'more colored artists than any other record manufacturer". Of these many young hopefuls, some went on to greater things but the majority didn't managing, at most, to only ever recorded a handful of songs; their main claim to posterity being an entry or two in record company ledgers. Listening to the caliber of the performances presented here adds to the mystery as to why these artists did not develop their recording careers further. Classic, Barrelhouse and Country Blues are all here and these women really know how to sing them.
Credits: Virginia Childs - vocals, performer, primary artist; Anna Lee Chisholm - vocals, performer, primary artist; Lulu Jackson - vocals, performer, primary artist; James Johnson - piano; Lonnie Johnson - violin; Louis Lasky - guitar; Eva Parker - vocals, performer, primary artist; Cora Perkins - vocals, performer, primary artist; Riley Puckett - guitar; Deloise Searcy - piano; J.H. Shayne - piano; Ruby Smith - vocals, performer, primary artist.
Tracks: 1) Georgia Sam blues - Anna Lee Chisholm; 2) Cool kind daddy blues - Anna Lee Chisholm; 3) When I rise blues - Cora Perkins; 4) Today blues - Cora Perkins; 5) Down hearted blues - Virginia Childs; 6) The St. Louis blues - Virginia Childs; 7) You got yourself another woman - Eva Parker; 8) I seen my pretty papa - Eva Parker; 9) You're going to leave the old home Jim - Eva Parker; 10) Careless love - Eva Parker; 11) You're going to leave the old home, Jim - Lulu Jackson; 12) Careless love blues - Lulu Jackson; 13) After you've had your way - Lulu Jackson; 14) Little by little you're breaking my heart - Lulu Jackson; 15) Lost lover blues - Lulu Jackson; 16) Little rosewood casket - Lulu Jackson; 17) Blue Ridge blues - Lulu Jackson; 18) You're going to leave the old home, Jim - part 2 - Lulu Jackson; 19) Dream man blues - Ruby Smith; 20) Selfish blues - Ruby Smith; 21) 'Lectric chair blues - Ruby Smith; 22) Hard up blues - Ruby Smith; 22) Flyin' mosquito blues - Ruby Smith; 24) Draggin' my heart around - Ruby Smith.