365 Days of Album Recommendations – Jan 18

The Victoria Spivey Collection 1926-1937


Victoria Spivey was a dangerously cool singer. Mischievous, sly, wry, weary, wanton, and … dangerous.

And nasty. Definitely a bit nasty.

As with much of the music from this era, there are no “albums” per se, so this is admittedly a collection. But what a collection! From the first song’s lyric:

Cause my left eye is jumping,
And my flesh begins to crawl,
I said my left eye is jumping,
And my flesh begins to crawl,
You can bet my last dollar
There’s another woman kickin’ in my stall.

to the last song’s lyric:

I got a down hill pull and I ain’t gettin’ you no more
There’s an undercurrent somewhere, and I can’t put my foot on land
Undercurrent somewhere, can’t put my foot on land
I don’t seem to get nowhere no matter how hard I plan

There is an omnipresent … weirdness to the funky poetry of these definitely crazy blues.

Musically, these are top-notch renditions of a fairly static template—20s-style slow-grindin’ jazz combos doin’ swingin’ and sultry blues arrangements. The talent is killer tho, despite the straightforward arrangements—King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, etc.

Spivey herself is of course what sets it all apart. She’s just badass, and kind of creepy. When she applies her elastic pipes—alternately screechy-scary one minute, and all baritonal gothic the next—to a song like “Blood Thirsty Blues” the effect is literally hair-raising. Listen to her sing the opening line:

Blood, blood, oh, look at all that blood …

and you’ll never forget the experience.

Recommended track to begin with: The Alligator Pond Went Dry

This is just an amazing song. Amazing. Crazy arrangement, crazy lyric, crazy performance, crazy vocal. THIS … is the REAL crazy blues.

Now, old Mister Alligator, he got real hot,
He said, “We’re gonna have this function whether there’s water or not!”
Oh, it was a social,
For the alligator pond went dry!
Lord, if you don’t believe what I’m saying, ask old Alligator Jack,
Wasn’t a drop of water in the pond when he got back;
It was a social,
But the alligator pond went dry!

Victoria Spivey was an eerily compelling and talented vocalist and performer, who was what was termed in the day “suggestive,” but she was also a very professional artist . She toured with A-list talent (Louis Armstrong), recorded for some of the top labels of the day (Victor, Vocalion, Decca, Okeh), and she worked as a professional songwriter for a publishing company back in the 30s. She was also in musicals, movies, and in the “second stage” of her career, late in her life, she even established her own record label. Victoria Spivey was the real deal. Do yourself a favor, and get into her world. It’s amazing in there.


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