Don't Fish In My Sea Original recording remastered
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Twenty larger than life performances from the 1920s from the First Lady of the Blues. Recorded in Chicago and New York this title brings the best of Ma Rainey and includes 'Shave 'Em Dry' and 'Don't Fish in My Sea'. With informative notes and session details this set is part of the Complete Blues series, described by Uncut magazine as ' a dazzling, comprehensive story of the blues...the most user-friendly compendium on the market'.
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Ma Rainey was a flamboyant figure, both in personality and in her performance. Her lascivious; rough-and-ready vocal delivery shakes the microphone occasionally, but that just adds to the fun of it. She's accompanied on a few of the songs by her husband Pa Rainey, and they have a brilliant call-and-response. My personal five highlights of the album are See See Rider; Yonder Come The Blues; Toad Frog Blues; Shave'Em Dry and Sleep Talking Blues.
Buy it and have a listen for yourself, blues heritage doesn't get more fun than this!
"Don't Fish in my Sea" contains a collection of 'classic' early blues numbers that give a master-class guide to Ma Rainey's pivotal role in the founding and establishment of this most important genre of music that has stood the test of time for over a century and is still one of the most popular styles of music globally.
The manner of her delivery on this recording reflects her flamboyant personality which at the height of her fame must have been a sight to behold. Not considered the most attractive woman, she made up for it with astonishing stage outfits, the most 'lurid' bling, bling jewellry and highly visible gold teeth. She was also a most promiscuous lady, with many liasons with members of either sex, a trait that she may have passed on to Bessie Smith.
Whilst the recording quality does not measure up to modern standards, it does in a way represent more the actual sound that would have been prevalent in the clubs and bars where blues put down its roots and adds a certain authentic atmosphere to these renderings of archetypal blues songs.
"Bad Luck Blues", "Night Time Blues", and "Mountain Jack No 1 and 3" are personal favourites.
I became aware of Ma Rainey's music about three or four years ago, when I was exploring an interest in Blues and Jazz music and wanted to better acquaint myself with the female performers in these genres.
Listening to Ma Rainey sing, I would say her voice is somewhere in the middle of the contralto range, more salty than sweet, kind of rough and gravelly, with a ribald, raunchy quality to it. She can move up and down the scales of her vocal range, and has the ability to sustain a note.
Some of these tracks sound like a more urban style of Blues, which sounds quite similar to the Bluesier side of Jazz, with instrumental arrangements centred around piano with trumpets, guitars and other instruments woven into it. Other tracks sound more like rural, roots, country style Blues, dominated by picked and strummed guitar. Notable examples of the country-blues style include Shave 'Em Dry, Farewell Daddy Blues and Big Feeling Blues. The latter, like Ma and Pa's Poorhouse Blues, sounds like it's a duet with a male singer, presumably Ma's husband Pa Rainey.
The production quality is what you can expect from this era, although I'd hazard to say it is a better example of nineteen-twenties record quality. I like that they've kept it as it was, rather than do what other distributor's of Rainey's music have done and digitally "cleaned" it, which makes it sound tinny, thin and mutilated. Leaving the hiss and the fizz of the original recording gives an authentic of-its-era feel, and leaves the songs in tact, rather than damaging them like an artefact ruined through careless and heavy handed excavation.
This item has an attractive case, with plastic CD tray adhered to semi-rigid card outer casing. There's some background information about the tracks on the inlay, offering a bit of context to the songs, such as when they were recorded, where they were recorded, and what musicians played on them. The cover doubles as an envelope and there's a booklet inside it.
There's a brief biography of Ma Rainey on the first three pages of the booklet, focusing on her career in music and entertainment. The rest of the booklet is a catalogue of other Blues and Blues-related records that the company stocks.
The cover says the songs were recorded in the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties, but the inlay sleeve says they were recorded between nineteen-twenty-three and nineteen-twenty-eight, so a bit of conflicting information there but it's not a big deal.
I am pleased with this product, I think it's good value for money, and I'd recommend it to others.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Although her live performing career lasted longer (starting about 1913 through to 1934), she only recorded (on cylinder) from 1923 to 1928, most of it for Paramount, and in this fine offering from Snapper of the U.K., you get decent sound quality considering the age and techniques used at the time, and informative liner notes by Pat Harrison. The selections offered were recorded in 1923, 1926, 1927 and 1928 and include what many regard as her finest, including See See Rider Blues which became her only charted hit (there was no equivalent to the R&B charts back then), reaching # 14 Pop in February 1925 on Paramount 12252 b/w Jealous Hearted Blues. On the hit she was accompanied by Louis Armstrong on coronet and Fletcher Henderson on piano.
In addition to Armstrong and Henderson pother notable names in Blues providing back-up include guitarists Blind Blake and Tampa Red, trombonists Kid Ory and Charlie Green, banjo players Charlie Dixon, Papa Charlie Jackson (who also offers vocal support here and there), George W. Williams and Martell Pettiford, pianists Lil Henderson, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Lovie Austin (& Her Blue Serenaders) and Jimmy Blythe, drummers Happy Bolton (also chimes) and Kaiser Marshall, clarinetists Artie Starks, Jimmy O'Bryant, Don Redman, Buster Bailey and again Tampa Red, saxophonists Charles Harris (alto) and Coleman Hawkins (bass), Herman Brown on kazoo and washboard, coronetists Tommy Ladiner and Howard H. Scott, and Carl Reid on horns.
For those interested I have repeated the track listing in the Comments below showing the original label details and recording year.
Ma Rainey died at age 53 on December 22, 1939. In 1983 she was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame, and two years later her life inspired the Broadway musical "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" - revived in 2003 with Whoopi Goldberg in the starring role.