Thursday, September 07, 2017

Jessie Mae Hemphill - She-Wolf

I believe that Jessie is another discovery due to someone's Faecbook post, so I thank that nameless person now (even though I have forgotten who it was). This CD compiles recordings from 1979 and 1980 with Jessie playing guitar, "foot tambourine", diddley bow and lead vocals.

With a style similar to RL Burnside, who was signed to Vogue Records at the same time (High Tone Records has licensed this for CD release), Jessie's blues are simple with a boogie rhythm derived from her blues and fife'n'drum influences. At times she uses RL's drummer, which helps to account for the comparable sounds, but she also was obviously impacted by Howlin' Wolf (hence the album title), John Lee Hooker, Memphis Minnie and more.

Filled with sparse blues, she varies the tempos throughout, with groovin' boogies like the opening title cut, "Black Cat Bone" and more, and drops things to pure basics with just her and the diddley bow on numbers like "Take Me Home With you, Baby". Some songs she admits were old songs that were taught to her by her musician relatives (like "Crawdad Hole" that her granddad used to sing to her as a little girl), but most are credited to her (except for Memphis Minnie’s "Honey Bee") - apparently in the custom of taking "traditional" songs are crediting them to the musician who arranged them.

I love these bare-boned blues and if you're a fan of RL Burnside and John Lee Hooker's solo playing, you'll be sure to dig this. A new fave!