FAME Review: Alberta Hunter - Downhearted Blues: Live At The Cookery
Alberta Hunter - Downhearted Blues: Live At The Cookery

Downhearted Blues:
Live At The Cookery

Alberta Hunter

RockBeat Records - ROC CD 3024

Available from RockBeat Records' online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb

This early pioneer of the blues had a most remarkable career, as a singer and songwriter of the blues, this while living a life that was filled with the blues. She was active as a singer from the 1920s; she was born in 1895, until the 1950s when she stopped to become a nurse, and then resumed her singing career in the 1970s, when she was forced to retire by the hospital because of her age, and sang almost until her death in 1984. She fought her way to the top in the Chicago blues scene and went on to tour Europe. She sang and acted and was a big hit there. In 1928 she played opposite Paul Robeson, as Queenie in a London production of Show Boat.

This disc is a live recording of a 1981 engagement at the Cookery in Greenwich Village in NYC where club owner Barney Josephson had invited her to sing for six weeks. Pianist Gerald Cook, and upright bassist Jimmy Lewis, both of whom were fully attuned to her, provide a wonderful mounting block for her vocals and her stage performance. This title was previously available on CD, however RockBeat Records has re-mastered the performance, cleaned it of extraneous sound without losing any of the intimacy that characterized The Cookery; and it is now available on CD and special vinyl for the first time.

Hunter very early on moved to Chicago from Memphis and once established there she went on to New York. She spent numerous years headlining in Paris and London, on both the concert stages and in plays. She was regarded for years with the likes of Bessie Smith and "Ma" Rainey, and she started writing her own songs including the much recorded original, Downhearted Blues, and the exceedingly lascivious You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark among many others. This disc gives you a glimpse into some of the magic this woman had on the stage. If you like the blues and sometimes wonder about the early performers and the days before everything was bottled up with political correctness this is the person to go to. She could sing, write, and charm the audience right out of their socks without ever touching their shoes.

Track List:

  • My Castle's Rockin'
  • The Love I Have For You
  • I Got Rhythm
  • Downhearted Blues
  • Time Waits For No One
  • I'm Havin' A Good Time
  • Two-Fisted Double-Jointed Rough And Ready Man
  • The Darktown Strutter's Ball
  • Sometimes I'm Happy
  • I've Got A Mind To Ramble
  • Old Fashioned Love
  • You Can't Tell The Difference After Dark
  • Remember My Name
  • When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)
  • Georgia On My Mind
  • Handy Man
  • Never Knew My Kisses
  • You're Welcome To Come Back Home

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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