Tag Archives: Ma Rainey

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 1

Blind Blake – All the Published Sides 1926-1932


If the success of a musician can be assessed via the influence they have on ensuing generations, then Blind Blake must surely be considered a towering figure in the history of country blues.

He’s been credited as an influence by no less a player than Rev. Gary Davis, himself surely one of the greatest guitarists this country has every produced. Also citing him as an influence are Ry Cooder, Leon Redbone, Bob Dylan, John Fahey, and more.

Like far too many black musicians of his era, he died young, from an illness that should have been easily preventable and/or treatable. Despite having bequeathed some 100 outstanding musical recordings to the world—recordings that would inspire generations of virtuoso players to come—he died young, poor, and under-appreciated.

Far too many sins remains as stains upon our national conscience, for having treated so many so poorly.

Blind Blake was at best a conventional vocalist, and his solo performances are notable largely for his guitar playing. But, oh, such guitar playing! West Coast Blues is literally a textbook on ragtime blues, and honestly the only one you need to listen to, should you wish to want to try to master the sound.

His work as an accompanist is understandably uneven, by definition being dependent on whoever he was playing with. But when the combinations are great, they’re truly great. A personal favorite is Grievin’ Hearted Blues, on which Blake backs the great Ma Rainey.

Blind Blake’s recording life lasted all of 6 years, but in those 6 years, he changed the future of music, and the lives of countless musicians as well.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 7

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


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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