Big Boss Lady
Johnnie Mae Dunson Smith left Alabama in 1943 and came to Chicago where she learned drums from former medicine show dancer Eddie "Porkchop" Hines on Maxwell Street. She became an accompanist and songwriter for Jimmy Reed and recorded a few sides in the 1960's.
Lately the 79-year-old Dunson has emerged from obscurity and ill health to become a symbol of the grit and tenacity of Maxwell Street and she has played a prominent role in the many demonstrations for the preservation of what remains of the old market area. Bogfire's Jim Fraher persuaded her to cut this album together with her son, Jimi "Prime Time" Smith, and old Maxwell Street friends including Jimmie Lee Robinson and Frank Scott. The result is a sometimes quirky set of originals that evoke mysterious backwoods as vividly as Maxwell Street.
Dunson's talents as a lyricist are highlighted on the feisty Big Boss Lady, her answer to Reed's Big Boss Man, the hauntingly poetic Blue Sky Is My Blanket, the astonishing a capella I Won, the hypnotic So Cold, and the steamy Blues Talking, a vocal duet with Jimmie Lee Robinson that demonstrates her amazing ability to adlib and create lyrics on the fly. Dunson is equal parts crusader, shaman, and liberated woman-without a doubt the elder stateswoman of Maxwell Street and of changing culture.
As dazzling as one of her-decorated canes, this CD should put Dunson in the running for "Comeback Artist of the Year" and other honors.
Living Blues Sept/Oct 2000 issue
Check out the artist's website:
1. I'm Going Upside Your Head
2. So, Cold (Part 1)
3. I'm a She Wolf
4. Gamblin' Woman
5. My Baby's Gone
6. Big Boss Lady
7. I'm a Whole Lotta Woman
8. Trouble Just Won't Let Me Be
10. Blue Sky is My Blanket
11. Blues Talking
12. I'm Sad and Lonesome
13. I Won