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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

Bessie Smith

The Complete Columbia Recordings

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Bessie Smith didn’t make the first blues recordings, but she may have been the first authentic blues singer to record. The Complete Columbia Recordings, a 10-CD set, is the definitive documentary of the artist who awakened the industry to the African-American market. Smith was boisterous and larger, maybe louder, than life; her voice left a more marked impression on the primitive shellac recordings of the early 1920s than many of her competitors as she etched sassy resignation into the grooves. She left behind a glimpse of black road houses from the days when blues was sorting itself out as a distinct genre, as well as a template many singers continue to follow nearly a century later.