The Complete Columbia Recordings
Dec. 20, 2012
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.