Ace (UK)’s new anthology of rocking females blues and R&B from the forties and fifties, “Blue Belles With Attitude,” makes available 28 choice recordings (23 never previously on CD and a number previously unissued selections or alternate takes by such artists as Esther Phillips, Effie Smith and Helen Humes. While the album opens with Cordella De Milo’s “Ain’t Gonna Hush,” most of the songs are more standard blues. Some may not of De Milo’s song from Saffire’s interpretation, but her original with a great studio band under Maxwell Davis’ name kicks butt with some explosive, slashing guitar from Johnny 'Guitar' Watson that should put Joe Turner in his place. Watson also plays some great guitar on De Milo’s “Lonely Girl.”
Effie Smith sets the pace on a fast, previously unissued, “Be Bop Boogie,” with some really hot tenor sax to go with her strongly delivered vocal, while there is some really nice guitar on Edna Broughton’s rendition of a Percy Mayfield classic “Two Days of Torture.” “Hey Hey Baby” is a lively exuberant jump blues delivered by Helen Humes, while Edna Broughton’s “Hambone Blues” is a nice slow blues as she tells her man how he has been been mistreating. Mari Jones accompanied by Johnny Moore’s 3 Blazers (augmented by a solid saxophonist) is a nice Dinah Washington styled vocal with deft accompaniment. Some strong trumpet by Howard McGhee embellishes the shouting of Pearl Traylor on “Gee I’m Lonesome,” and “Play Boy Blues.” While the backing may not be as consistently strong (the tenor saxophonist has too much vibrato) on her “Daddy, Somebody’s Got to Go,” she sings quite forcefully. Besides the opening selection there are several other answer songs. Del Graham sings “Mr T 99,” a response to Jimmy Nelson’s “T-99 Blues,” while Helen Humes, with someone playing slide, tells John Lee Hooker, that “I Ain’t in the Mood” for love.
Among others who can be heard on this are Mickey Champion (fortunately still with us as I write this) both with the Nic Nacs and under her own name and a fabulous scorching piano instrumental by Vivianne Green. There is also a nice rendition of “24 Hours A Day,” by a singer whose identity the compilers can only speculate about. There is an interesting range of performances that include some good as well as terrific vocals and generally strong idiomatic R&B accompaniments typical of the period. Ace Records continues to issue some of the finest reissues of blues and related music in the world and this release is another example to demonstrate that.
If anyone from The Blues Foundation is reading this blog entry, I suggest they be considered for Keeping the Blues Alive Award. They certainly would be a worthy selection. Bluebeat Music has this.