Like many African American pianists of his generation, Cow Cow Davenport made ends meet during the 1920s by providing accompaniment for blues and jazz vocalists in established or temporary recording studios. In order to illustrate this aspect of his career and bring more rare material out of the woodwork, 22 sides cut during the years 1924-1929 were reissued by Document in 1994.
The first six titles are sung by Dora Carr in duet with Davenport, drawing upon the repertoire they shared while touring the Southern vaudeville circuit a few years earlier with a small troupe bearing Davenport’s name. Tracks 7-14, which were recorded in 1928, feature the robust theatrical singing of Hound Head Henry who laughs, cries, and imitates birds, trains and boat whistles. Jim Towel, who sings I’ve Been Hoodooed and Buckwheat Cakes, touches upon a form of folksy musical entertainment dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Memphis Joe, who was responsible for the Plenty Gals Blues, had a warm burr to his voice similar to that of Cow Cow’s. Comparable to the many African American vocal groups whose recordings have been reissued in multiple volumes by Document, the Southern Blues Singers handled both sacred and secular songs. They sound especially jazzy on Runnin’ Wild and It’s Tight Like That, which lead directly and logically into a pair of topical tunes sung by hokum specialist Lovin’ Sam Theard, including that singer’s most famous creation, You Rascal You. This entertaining collection of blues, folk, and jazz from the ’20s can stand on its own or work as an essential counterweight to Cow Cow Davenport’s primary recordings which have been reissued by Document. – arwulf arwu