Various Artists — “Women In Blues Showcase — VizzTone
Blues harpmeister and archivist Bob Corritore seems to have everything in his musical vaults except Jimmy Hoffa.
He never seems to have any trouble finding enough fine music from his archives to put together an enjoyable album filled with outstanding blues by some of its best practitioners.
This time, it’s a very special “Women In Blues Showcase,” with a special variety of singers whose voices and songs cover a range of blues styles.
The eight women who contribute the 12 tracks are: Barbara Lynn, Carol Fran, Koko Taylor, Francine Reed, Diunna Greenleaf, Valerie June, Shy Perry, and Aliya Primer (John Primer’s daughter, 17, with her first recording).
The musicians on these songs are multitudinous (see the credits below) as well as magical. Corritore has a knack for capturing some of the best blues performers as they’ve passed through his Rhythm Room club in Phoenix since it opened in 1991. Those recordings make up the archives for his ambitious “From the Vaults” series.
The musicians, songs and styles in the archives are varied, but the constant musical theme is Chicago blues, underlined by Corritore’s tough, versatile harmonica work throughout. He manages to stand out musically, and at the same time, blend into a perfect background for each individual artist.
Those artists, and their songs here, are: Barbara Lynn, “You’re Gonna Be Sorry” — Carol Fran, “I Just Need A Friend” — Valerie June, “Crawdad Hole” — Koko Taylor, “What Kind Of Man Is This” — Shy Perry, “Wang Dang Doodle” — Diunna Greenleaf, “Be For Me” — Aliya Primer, “Te Ni Nee Ni Nu'” — Carol Fran, “I Needs To Be Be’d With” — Diunna Greenleaf, “Don’t Mess With The Messer” — Barbara Lynn, “You Don’t Have To Go” — Carol Fran, “Walkin’ Slipping’ And Slidin'” — Francine Reed, “Why Am I Treated So Bad.”
Each artist offers a unique style, and each song shows off that style, making for a terrific collection of good old-fashioned blues, leaning heavily on its Chicago roots.
Except for Aliya Primer, who is just 17 and making a sparkling recording debut with “Te Ni Nee Ni Nu,” the others are, or were, veteran performers. Sadly, Koko Taylor and Carol Fran are no longer with us, but their voices linger as testimony to their greatness. It’s not clear when each of these recordings was made, but the vocals are powerful blues statements.
In an interesting twist, Shy Perry shines on the raucous “Wang Dang Doodle,” which had become a signature song for Taylor, and Taylor makes her own powerful statement with “What Kind Of Man Is This.”
Diunna Greenleaf and Francine Reed are two big-voiced blueswomen and their traditionally tough vocals stand out here. Valerie June, a singer who is equally at home in folk and country, gives “Crawdad Hole” a delicious old-timey feel.
If I may digress for just a minute, I want to offer my own experiences with Taylor and Reed. Koko Taylor turned up at Pittsburgh-area clubs way back when, and you could always count on her to lift you out of your seats. My photo at left is from her 2008 Chicago Blues Festival appearance, about a year before her death.
I saw Francine Reed, once, in the summer of 1999 at Atlanta’s gorgeous Chastain Park amphitheater, when she was featured with Lyle Lovett’s Large Band. Her performance of the 1924 Ida Cox song, “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues,” was one of those unforgettably hair-raising, spine-tingling musical moments that never quite dissolve in time.
But back to work. This is a thoughtfully produced, highly enjoyable selection of songs from a handful of great blues singers, some of whom may not have had the recognition that equals their talents. Put this on your playlist, and check out more of the great music from these women.
Here’s the track by Koko Taylor, “What Kind of Man Is This”
Here’s a nice big image of the album’s back cover, so you can find all the credits for these excellent songs.