"Mean Mothers, Independent Women's Blues," Vol. I. ROSETTA RECORDS RR 1300 -- One hopes producer Rosetta Reitz is serious when she says this is Volume I -- that there'll be more of these wonderful anthologies of female blues singers, from the less than little known to the famous. This is a well put-together album, with the singers each doing a short number, all arranged in chronological order so that one gets to see the contrast between a blues shouter from the 1920 s and someone from the '40s or '50s. The liner notes are great, too, with pictures and descriptions of the artists, and some commentary on their work. But the best part are the singers themselves, who are so down to earth you can hardly stand it, and their legendary accompanists, who can range from a one-string fiddle player to Buster Harding's big band, backing up Billie Holliday. In between are the likes of James P. Johnson, Lester Young, and Buster Clayton. Then there's blues singer Gladys Bentley, who manages somehow to make a noise with her mouth that sounds exactly like a muted trumpet on a tune called "How Much Can I Stand?" The voice of Ida Cox, one of the most popular blues singers of her day, is truly memorable on Mean Mothers. It's too bad that the second album devoted entirely to Ms. Cox, was recorded much later, when she had lost some of the staying power in her voice. Nevertheless, it's an interesting album, not without its grand musical moments. And both albums are an absolute must for collectors of early jazz. Drop a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Rosetta Records, 115 West 16th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011, for a complete catalog.

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