365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 7

Ma Rainey – Mother of the Blues, CDs A – E

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I recently and finally made the time to sit down and read Black Pearls: Blues Queen of the 1920s, and I’ve been happily under the spell of the music discussed within ever since … or I should say, happily RE-under the spell, as I’ve certainly gone through these phases before. I’ve been a Victoria Spivey fan since forever, and I’ve always operated on the assumption that Bessie Smith was the boss of them all. But this time around, I really dug getting into some of the other singers and performers profiled.

Ma Rainey is honestly someone I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around previously, for a couple reasons. As oft-discussed, she was a Paramount recording artist, so the quality of her recordings has never been great, tho on this reissue, JSP has, as always, done a noble job. But I think it’s more to do with a perceived “sameness” to the material, particularly pace-wise. Put simply, these are some long, languid, drawn-out blues. Except when they aren’t. But when they aren’t, they’re largely comedic, and that’s never really been my bag.

But back to these long, languid, drawn-out blues. I’ve had a revelation. I love ’em. I love Ma Rainey. I love this music.

I had the same problem with Kurt Vonnegut. I tried to read him about every 5 years or so, and just never got it. Then one day, I tried again, and I got it. I mean, I GOT IT.

Safe to say, vis a vis Ma Rainey, I GET IT.

(pro tip: if you want to get it too, just listen to her phrasing on the opening word on the first take of “Bo-Weavil Blues”)


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