â€¦First Came Memphis Minnie is billed as a loving tribute to the legendary musician whose skilled and soulful approach to the blues has endured for generations. The record is more of a compilation than an actual tribute album, but once you get past the fact that several of the songs were previously recorded, and that producer, Maria Muldaur, performs over half of the track listing, itâ€™s an overall enjoyable album.
As a pioneer of the blues and guitar, Memphis Minnie held her own right alongside her male counterparts. Contemporary blueswomen, including the albumâ€™s artists, undoubtedly understand the legacy Minnie left behind, and have succeeded in honoring her accordingly. The record could have easily turned into a vocal showcase for these extraordinary singers, and while no one will argue that the vocals are in fact strong, the instrumentation shines equally.
The album flows well, the songs are all strong and there are no obvious weak spots. The tracks are eclectic, showcasing Minnieâ€™s songwriting talent with highlights of the album coming from Bonnie Raittâ€™s â€œAinâ€™t Nothinâ€™ in Ramblinâ€™,â€ Muldaurâ€™s â€œLong as I Can See You Smile,â€ and Ruthie Fosterâ€™s â€œKeep Your Big Mouth Closed.â€ However, itâ€™s Koko Taylorâ€™s take on â€œBlack Rat Swingâ€ that really channels the soul for which Memphis Minnie is known.
â€¦First Came Memphis Minnie is a successful, well-crafted album that honors the matriarch of the blues without trying to emulate or reproduce her brilliance. Nothing compares to Memphis Minnie herself, but the ladies on this album have given it a commendable effort.
… First Came Memphis Minnie is out now on Stony Plain.