From Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom we get this upbeat blues number, “How Can You Have the Blues,” a flirty duet about a woman who appears to have it all, but is continually bogged down by depression. The name Kansas City Kitty may not ring any bells with the most enthusiastic American blues aficionados. It could be because there is a mystery behind the true identity of this sexy voiced blues woman, but what we do know is that this track, recorded in 1930, features Thomas A. Dorsey on piano and vocals, playing under his popular pseudonym Georgia Tom. With its fantastic melody and conversational blues style, this number lends truth to the idea that money can’t buy you happiness.
Mississippi John Hurt sings on this thinly veiled song about domestic violence in “Nobody’s Dirty Business.” According to John, the sadism works both ways. Eventually his woman leaves. But John writes her a letter begging her to come back. She eventually returns and I suspect the dynamic keeps cycling over and over again. An important message brought to you from way back in 1935 – sometimes relationships just plain old don’t work out.
Blind Blake was born Arthur Blake in Jacksonville Florida. During Blind Blake’s prosperous career he recorded over 75 cuts for the Paramount label. “Diddie Wa Diddie” shows off Blind Blake’s distinctive vocal and guitar rhythm. This song was later covered by Ry Cooder and Hot Tuna. I only wish somebody would tell me what “Diddie Wa Diddie” means.
The great Leadbelly, with one of his classic sides that helped define American music in the 20th century and beyond. Over his own distinctive, relaxed guitar accompaniment, Leadbelly’s vocal on this recording is simply magnificent. Widely revered by music fans and covered by blues scholars, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” was also sung by Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s Unplugged album.
When you read the words “Slave to the blues,” it doesn’t compare to how it sounds and feels when Ma Rainey sings this song. You can imagine her holding her heart in chains during this dreary memory. It’s another way to say endless heart ache.