My wife Denise named this album late one night driving through Georgia in our van. We had been on an incredible adventure across the Southern United States, recording seven female blues and gospel artists in five days. These women with their varying talents had left us with a deep sense of the beauty and majesty of the human spirit. All of them had endured the lives of adversity inherent in their race, time, gender, geography, and social status. And all of them had emerged, beaten but unbent, with the radiant strength of the soul survivor.
The role of women has been far too often overlooked in the man's world that is the blues. While the bluesman was known for his foot-loose lifestyle, ever feeling the urge to "get my guitar and go," his woman, burdened by children and the moral responsibility of providing for them, was far more likely to settle and shoulder a life of drudgery, punctuated by song and sustained by the promise of better times waiting in the hereafter. She spent her days in servitude to the white power structure upon whom she depended for her livelihood and to the ruthless rambling men she turned to for company and comfort. Poverty, loneliness, and hard work were inescapable conditions. And she sang about it all to brighten the day and to testify that she would persevere through whatever new miseries the world had to offer and bear her tribulations with dignity and grace.
There is a little bit of everything here; gospel songs both wrenching and uplifting, lyrical guitar mastery, a playful risquÃ© number, and low-down driving blues. These poets and musicians opened their homes and hearts and shared their voices with us for all to hear. Enjoy.
The Branchettes of Johnston County, North Carolina (Ethel Eliot and Lena Mae Perry) have been performing hymns and gospel songs together for well over twenty years. Their style and repertory have their roots in the older African-American musical traditions of congregational hymn singing.
Beverly "Guitar" Watkins started as the rhythm guitarist in the early 60s with Piano Red & the Interns. In 1999 she had a major label debut with her CD "Miz Dr. Feelgood." Beverly has headlined over 100 Music Maker Blues Revivals throughout the United States and Europe and is currently working on her next CD.
Precious Bryant, blues woman, was born in rural Talbot County, Georgia. Precious recalls a childhood that was filled with many different kinds of homemade music. She was born into a family of traditional musicians in a close-knit community in which there were many, many blues players and gospel singers. Traditional Georgia music--especially country blues--has been a part of Precious Bryant's life as long as she can remember.
Etta Baker is the greatest living Piedmont blues finger-style guitar instrumentalist. Her version of "One-Dime" blues became a standard amongst folk revival musicians in the early 60s. Taj Mahal credits her for inspiration of his version of "Freight Train." Etta prefers to stay home and work in her flower garden and practice her guitar every afternoon.
Willa Mae Buckner in her days as a touring performer was known as "The Wild Enchantress," "Princess Ejo," "The Snake Lady," and "The World's Only Black Gypsy." She was a tent-show performer capable of enthralling crowds in just about any form imaginable; as a blues singer, burlesque stripper, contortionist and fire swallower. Willa was an articulate, self-educated and fiercely independent women who blazed her own trail from the day she ran away from home and joined an all-black tent show at the age of 13. Her frank wit and exotic past set the tone when she sang her risquÃ© songs.
Marie Manning lives in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina where her husband Bishop Manning heads a Holiness Church. Marie sings powerful old-time gospel while her husband plays hard-driving guitar. Although the Mannings' are invited to perform throughout the United States and Europe, the needs of their parishioners have kept the Mannings rooted to their home county. Marie can be heard at St. Mark's Holiness Church where her gospel chorus of seven children sometimes joins her.
Algia Mae Hinton ranks among the South's premiere blues guitarists and buck-dancers. Ms. Hinton has delighted house-party audiences with her snappy rags and exuberant buck dancing since her teens. Raised deep in the heart of Carolina tobacco country, she grew up in a musical environment, with her mother, thirteen siblings and dozens of kin all playing a variety of instruments. Ms. Hinton's exuberant mastery of the guitar is matched by her singular skills on the dance floor, where she taps out syncopated accompaniment with fast-stepping precision. As a house party (and now concert stage) showstopper, Ms. Hinton often dances and plays the guitar at the same time, demonstrating the impassioned union of blues and rhythmic dance.
Sweet Betty (Echols) of Duluth, Georgia is a protÃ©gÃ© of the late great Grady "Fats" Jackson of Atlanta, Georgia. Blues guitarist Bob Margolin takes great pride in working with Betty. She has performed throughout Europe and Greece.
Lucille Lindsay conveys her faith in words and song. Diabetic and blind, living in a convalescent home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, sister to the late Guitar Gabriel; she is the last of a distinguished musical family.
Essie Mae Brooks was born in Houston County, Georgia in 1930. Her father was a great drummer in the nearly forgotten African-American tradition called "Drumbeat." Her father would play the drum every weekend and people would gather and dance all night long. Her grandfather was a harmonica player and Essie started singing to accompany him. She began writing songs as a girl and has never stopped. Essie Mae prays to travel and perform her music more and more.
Cora Mae Bryant is the daughter of Curley Weaver, one of the great blues artists from Atlanta, Georgia. She grew up singing and traveling from house party to blues stages throughout this city with her father and legends Blind Willie McTell and Buddy Moss. Since the 60s, Cora Mae has been a great source for blues researchers doing fieldwork in the surrounding area. Cora Mae knows hundreds of old songs and still performs regularly in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cora Fluker from Marion, Mississippi is a deeply rooted gospel singer. Her voice is extremely powerful and her passion is hair-raising. Cora often sings and testifies about her childhood on the plantation on which she was raised. Cora has her own church and is known for her eloquent sermons and her highly amplified singing and guitar playing.
The Sisters are apart of the Music Maker Releif Foundation:
Music Maker Relief Foundation's Mission
Music Maker Relief Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs. Today, many such musicians are living in extreme poverty and need food, shelter, medical care, and other assistance. Music Maker's aid and service programs improve the quality of recipients' lives. Our work affirms to these artists that we value the gifts of music and inspiration they have delivered to the world. Our mission is to give back to the roots of American music. Our criterion for recipients is they be rooted in a Southern musical tradition, be 55 years or older and have an annual income less than $18,000. Music Maker Relief Foundation, Inc. is a tax exempt, public charity under IRS code 501(c)3.
For more information visit our website at www.musicmaker.org or call 919-643-2456.
Check out the artist's website:
1. I Know I've been Changed
2. Baghdad Blues
3. If You Don't Love Me, Would you Fool Me Good?
4. One-Dime Bliss
6. Hard Luck & Trouble
7. Step it Up & Go
8. Coffee Drinkin' Blues
9. I Love the Lord
10. Come On in the Room
11. Feel Like My Time Ain't Long
12. Born in Newton County
13. Cora's Testimony