Various Artists – Sisters of the South
The blues may have been the creation of male songsters during the last decade of the 19th century, but it was women who popularized them in the wake of the commercial success of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” shortly after the Great War. Throughout the 1920s, the blues were almost exclusively the prerogative of the so-called classic singers (Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter…) on the stages of the theaters that featured vaudeville shows.
Or so we thought, until the relentless work of Tim Duffy and his Music Maker Relief Foundation established that there was a large number of women expressing themselves in music throughout the South: when blues men opted for the life of itinerant griots, their female counterparts had to stay at home, but they poured their hearts out on Saturday night for relatives, friends and neighbors before letting their soul overflow in church on Sunday morning.
The fourteen sisters featured on this double volume bear witness to the great wealth of talent still to be found today on the other side of the tracks in small backwoods communities. They also illustrate the rich diversity of traditions in the southeastern quarter of the US, giving us a living proof that blues ditties, gospel hymns and folk melodies form the various facets of the same cultural gumbo, one that has given southern popular music its originality and universal appeal for the past hundred years.