Mamie Smith: Crazy Blues
Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds
Crazy Blues: The Best of Mamie Smith (Columbia/Legacy 65712)
Dope Andrews (trombone), Ernest Elliott (clarinet, tenor sax), Leroy Parker (violin).
Composed by Perry Bradford.
Recorded: New York, August 10, 1920
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
"Crazy Blues" was a million seller for OKeh Records and struck gold for black artists, whose works were now marketed directly to African Americans. Despite deplorable trappings—OKeh's artwork featured a top-hatted cartoon Sambo gaily eating a plateful of worms—"race" records uniquely showcased the talents of these performers. In particular, "Crazy Blues" provides fascinating documentation of the convergence of jazz, blues and black music-hall traditions. The audio is primitive, but Mamie Smith's powerful voice carries from one century to the next even without mechanical reproduction. "I can read his letters," she belts out one of our all-time favorite blues lines. "I just can't read his mind."
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz