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Jessie Mae Hemphill - Get Right Blues (2004)

Jessie Mae Hemphill - Guitar, Tambourine, Vocals
David Evans - Guitar tr.1,5
Compton Jones - Vocals tr.8,9,12
Glen Faulkner - Bo-diddley tr.12
Lois Brown - Bass tr.2,13 & Joe Hicks - Drums tr.2,13
Napoleon Strickland - Vocal tr.12
Bettye Mitchell - Tambourine tr.1,5

Jessie Mae Hemphill from Como, Mississippi is the granddaughter of singer and multi-instrumentalist Sid Hemphill, and the niece of singer and guitarist Rosa Lee Hill; her parents and two aunts were also musicians, but never recorded. Jessie Mae did a little performing at picnic and in church, but it was only in 1979 that docided, as thelast of the family still playing music, to make it her cereer. She toured widely, and won a Handy Awards for album \'Feelin\' Good\' in 1991, but was sidelined by a stroke in 1993. He is death in 2006.

When David Evans met her in 1979, Jessie had only a small repertoire, including the diddley bow piece \'Take Me Home With You Baby\'. Evans worked with her on developing her music, creating complementary second guitar parts, and Hemphill expanded her repertoire and added percussion instruments. This is the most recently released CD, includes the earliest recordings. The content is drawn about equally from 1979 and the mid-\'80s, and while it doesn\'t provoke any rethinking of Hemphill\'s status as an artist, the disc carefully programmed. As a result, the foot tambourine on four tracks provides variety rather than monotony, and the exiguousness of some compositions is effectively disguised. Three tracks with diddley bow and some touching, archaic church songs contrast well with band blues like \'Streamline Train\', where Hemphill overdubs thunderous drumming, and \'Jessie\'s Love Song\' and \'Shake Your Booty\', which feature Joe Hicks and Lois Brown from legendary band The Fieldstones.

Jessie Mae Hemphill was indeed a national treasure, and \'Get Right Blues\' makes a wonderful introduction to this amazing musician.

Until a stroke sidelined her in 1993, Jessie Mae Hemphill may well have been the most accomplished and versatile of the North Mississippi folk-blues musicians who emerged in the early 1980s with a stripped down, primal version of jook blues that was (and is) at stylistic odds with most of the contemporary blues scene (not that Hemphill and company had suddenly started playing this way, just that the rest of the world finally caught up with it). Hemphill, whose grandfather was the legendary Sid Hemphill who recorded some pretty wild and wooly fife and drum-styled classics for Alan Lomax in 1942 and 1959, has a hands-on understanding of the various folk forms of her native hill country, and her soulful, vibrant music is a thing apart. Assembled by folklorist Dr. David Evans, Get Right Blues collects 15 previously unreleased recordings cut by Hemphill in 1979, 1984 and 1985, and the range of blues and spirituals presented here is impressive and inspiring. Part boogie, part folk-gospel revival, part history lesson, this collection doesn't contain a single lame track, and it's amazing that none of these have been released before, since everything here is a stunner. From the ramshackle "Streamline Train" (Hemphill's version of "Mystery Train") that opens the disc through a pair of raw, atmospheric diddley bow pieces ("Little Rooster Reel," "Get Right, Church") and a hushed solo take on Memphis Minnie's "Honey Bee," Hemphill brings a ragged, perfect sense of urgency and soul to everything she touches. Even now, unable to play guitar because of her stroke, Jessie Mae Hemphill can still stun a crowd with just her voice and a foot tambourine. She is indeed a national treasure, and Get Right Blues makes a wonderful introduction to this amazing musician. ~ Steve Leggett

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