Review 1924-1926 (Hd Remastered)

Lovie Austin

... read moreCora Calhoun was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on September 19, 1887. After years of active service as a touring vaudeville pianist, she put together a studio band called the Blues Serenaders. Professionally known as Lovie Austin, she was in her late thirties when these recordings were made. Anyone...

Cora Calhoun was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on September 19, 1887. After years of active service as a touring vaudeville pianist, she put together a studio band called the Blues Serenaders. Professionally known as Lovie Austin, she was in her late thirties when these recordings were made. Anyone who has ever fished around trying to find Austin's music will appreciate the opportunity to soak up all 14 of the instrumental sides cut for the Paramount label under her leadership, in addition to 11 vocals backed by the pianist and various members of her band. Accompanying blues singers was Lovie's specialty, the most famous examples being her collaborations with Gertrude "Ma" Rainey and Ida Cox. The muddy sound of early Paramount recordings is nothing to be afraid of. Once you get acclimated the crusty boxed-in acoustics have a charm all their own. Listen to Edmonia Henderson as she belts out the lyrics to "Jelly Roll Blues" accompanied by Austin, Tommy Ladnier and Johnny Dodds. This trio backs the vaudeville team of Ford and Ford, giving us a taste of what Austin's regular theatrical working environment must have sounded like. Yet these vocal tracks seem like pre-show entertainment when compared with "Steppin' on the Blues" and its flip side "Traveling Blues," a catchy stomp closely resembling the "Weary Blues" by ragtime composer Artie Matthews. Clarinetist Jimmy O'Bryant sounds great in this company -- in fact this is some of his best work on record. When W.E. Burton's percussion is added on the next session, it is clear why early recording engineers were reluctant to allow drummers to play anything more disruptive than a woodblock in front of those old carbon microphones. Burton, also an accomplished washboard artist, hammers away during two numbers exploiting the popularity of James P. Johnson's "Charleston" with snappy vocals by Priscilla Stewart. "Heebie Jeebies" sounds like "Some of These Days" while "Peepin' Blues" has a little bit of "King of the Zulus" about it. With "Mojo Blues" we're already at the tail end of Ladnier's recorded work with Austin. "Don't Shake It No More" sounds like "Ballin' the Jack," "Rampart Street Blues" has a bit of a West Indian chorus and "Too Sweet For Words" sounds like one of Jelly Roll Morton's prettier ditties. With the amazing "Jackass Blues" and "Frog Tongue Stomp" we're faced with a solid front line of Kid Ory, Natty Dominique and Johnny Dodds. "Frog Tongue" contains a fine example of Lovie's ragtime piano. Of the six blues vocals from 1926, "Walk Easy 'Cause My Papa's Here" is the most substantial. The interplay between Natty Dominique and Kid Ory during the closing instrumentals is complimented by the presence of Johnny Dodds and banjo man Eustern Woodfork. After this magnificent history lesson, you'll want to hear Lovie Austin's Blues Serenaders accompanying Alberta Hunter on an album recorded in 1961, part of Riverside's remarkable series Chicago: The Living Legends That slogan seems particularly pertinent to the life and work of Lovie Austin. ~ arwulf arwulf