Memphis Minnie is unquestionably one of the most well-known and respected female names in the history of the blues. Over the course of three decades, the singer (a.k.a. Lizzie Douglas) composed and recorded more than 200 songs, so many of which remains favorites among blues purists to this day. A new collection of those songs is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network and in the form of the new compilation, The Rough Guide to Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Country Blues. The 25-song compilation is yet another enjoyable addition to WMN’s ongoing The Rough Guide To… compilation series. That is due in no small part to its featured songs, which will be discussed shortly. The songs’ audio works directly with the songs to make the listening experience all the more enjoyable. This will be discussed a little later. The record’s companion booklet rounds out the presentation’s most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the compilation. All things considered they make the collection not only a welcome addition to WMN’s The Rough Guide To… series, but also to this year’s field of new blues records.
The Rough Guide to Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Country Blues is another enjoyable entry in World Music Network’s ongoing The Rough Guide To… compilation series and a presentation that any blues fan will find appealing. The record’s appeal comes in part through its featured songs. The songs – 25 in all (It seems most WMN compilations are composed of 25 songs, as a side note) – pull from the early days of her career, that formative period when she was really starting to make a name for herself in a musician, composer and lyricist. More specifically, the songs pull from the early days of her career in 1929 all the way up to 1933. So while that is a limited time frame, the songs still serve as a clear snapshot (so to speak) of what made her so respected so early on. Right from the record’s opener, ‘Keep It To Yourself,’ the country influence in the blues is obvious. What’s more, the simplicity of the lyrics, which finds Douglas singing about keeping what you know to yourself, makes the song so accessible. She is singing about keeping certain secrets, not telling others, not so much keeping opinions to one’s self. Later in the record, a song, such as ‘What’s The Matter With The Mill’ does just as much to show the country music influence in her compositions, what with the steady, two chord approach. The blues element comes into play as she and fellow blues performer Kansas Joe sing about a corn mill being broken down. The blues is all about singing about life’s problems, and for this situation, the mill not working is keeping the pair from getting certain food. Again, it is such a simple theme but still there is some thing so accessible about it in that simplicity. Once again, it serves to show Douglas’ ability as a wordsmith just as much as a composer and musician. Her song, ‘Ain’t No Use Trying To Tell On Me (I Know Something On You)’ is another intriguing work. That is because its simple arrangement is so similar to Jesse Fuller’s timeless hit, ‘San Francisco Blues.’ Fuller’s song didn’t come along until 1954, while Douglas’ song debuted decades earlier in 1933. Now whether the similarity in the songs’ sounds and styles is coincidental is anyone’s guess. If Fuller took influence from Douglas however, it further shows the strength of her influence. It is just one more example of the importance of the collection’s musical content.
There is no denying that the musical content that makes up this compilation’s body. It is just one part of what makes the record appealing. The production of the songs is just as important as the songs themselves. The production is so much of note because of its role in their sound in their presentation here. As with so many collection’s of vintage music that World Music Network has released over the years, this collection’s songs are so wonderful in their sound. The static from the original recordings is just as evident here as in their original vinyl releases a century ago. Yes, with many of the songs featured here, a century has passed since they were originally released. It creates such a wonderful sense of nostalgia while once again showing that it is possible to have vintage vinyl recordings on CD and have them sound just as rich as they would on a new vinyl re-issue. Again, that is a tribute to the work that went into the record’s production. The general effect that results from that positive production builds on the appeal established through the songs to make for even more appeal, and in turn engagement and entertainment.
The overall presentation resulting from the collection’s content and production creates a strong general effect. It is just part of what makes the record appealing. The record’s companion booklet rounds out its most important elements. That is because of the background that it offers in its liner notes. The notes in question offer a brief biography of Douglas, as well as a note of the struggle that she faced during her career, as a woman in a male dominated career. This in itself is sure to generate plenty of discussion among audiences. The liner notes also make clear that the songs featured in the set are in fact from her formative years. The liner notes also point out her role in the popularity of country blues as a genre. It is just one more item that make the liner notes so interesting. When it and the other items pointed out here are considered along with the rest of the liner notes, the picture that they collectively paint enhances the listening experience that much more. Staying on that note, when the information provided in the record’s liner notes is considered alongside the record’s musical content and its production, the whole makes The Rough Guide to Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Country Blues yet another overall success from World Music Network.
The Rough Guide to Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Country Blues is another enjoyable, immersive compilation from World Music Network that is also another positive addition to World Music Network’s ongoing The Rough Guide To… series of releases. That is due in part to its featured musical content, as noted. The songs featured in this compilation are a presentation of the famed blues legend’s early days. It was that moment when she was just starting to make a name for herself. The production of those songs proves it is possible to transfer vinyl recordings to CD without any loss. The impact there further shows that all the people who think vinyl will one day replace CDs are clearly wrong. The record’s booklet adds even more to the listening experience. That is because of the history of Douglas that the liner notes therein provide. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this collection. All things considered, they make the set another positive addition to WMN’s The Rough Guide To… series and one more of the year’s top new blues records.
The Rough Guide to Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Country Blues is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network. More information on this and other titles from World Music Network is available online at:
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