Get this crazy baby off my head!


Jo Ann Kelly

Jo Ann Kelly - Blues & Gospel: Rare & Unissued Recordings - 2004 - Blues Matters

Many blues critics and fans consider the late Jo Ann Kelly to be one of the most authentic blues singers ever to emerge from Britain. Jo Ann was no commercial blues lady. She sang in the blues roots traditional style of artists like Memphis Minnie, Charley Patton and Son House. This album is composed of many rare and unreleased tracks, recorded between 1967-1984. Five of the songs were recorded with guitarist Stefan Grossman during his U.K. tour in the summer of 1977. Although this is an official release, sound quality is poor on some tracks, but then some of the tracks were recorded on Stefan Grossman's home tape recorder. The album is an important historical release in the history of British blues. Listen to Jo Ann Kelly's 1969 s/t album, and her "It's Whoopie" album.


Long Black Hair - Kelly
Boyfriend Blues - M.McCoy
New Milk Cow Blues - Robert Johnson
I Looked Down The Line (And I Wondered) - Rosetta Tharpe
Whose Been Telling You Buddie Brown Eyes - John Estes
Black Rat Swing - Lawler
Walking Blues - Robert Johnson
Just Like I Treat You - Dixon
Sugar Babe (Ain't Got No Lovin' Now) - Copyright Control. Trad. Arr. by Jo Ann Kelly
The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair - John Estes
Special Rider Blues - Skip James
Someday Baby Blues - John Estes
Moon Going Down - Charlie Patton
Make Me A Pallet - Copyright Control. Trad. Arr. by Jo Ann Kelly
Sweet Nuthins - Ronnie Self
Big Boss Man - Dixon/Smith


Jo Ann Kelly - Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar
Stefan Grossman - Guitar
Sam Mitchell - Slide Guitar
Steve Rye - Harmonica
Bob Hall - Piano
Tony McPhee - Guitar


This collection of 16 tracks from the Jo Ann Kelly (1944 - 1990) archive has eight unreleased and eight unavailable. If you have no work from this charismatic and enigmatic performer this is a good place to start your collection. The four opening titles, recorded during 1967, first appeared in the U.K, on a now very collectable EP, Blues & gospel, with the sleeve notes telling us that Kelly is "the best female Blues artist in the country." The titles includes Boyfriend Blues, from Memphis Minnie, and Robert Johnson's New Milk Cow Blues, which has some gutsy guitar slide. Kelly always chose her material and fellow musicians with great integrity, and on the Sleepy Jogn Estes classic Whose Been Telling you Buddie Brown Eyes, from 1968, she performs with outstanding harmonica player Steve Rye, and although the recording quality is not the best, his highly skilled control and distinctive tone shine through. Another "British institution" appearing on this highly recommended set is the piano player Bob Hall who performed with many visiting U.S. musicians, perticularly during the '60s and '70s. Hall and Kelly recorded and performed together regularly, and on Memphis Minnie's Black rat Swing, they are at their infectious best. It is interesting to hear again the four titles where Kelly is performing with Stefan Grossman and one where they are joined by slide player Sammy Mitchell. These titles were recorded live in London in 1970, as was an enthralling version of Skip James' Special Rider. The crisp and controlled guitar picking from Grossman beautifully complements Kelly's compelling and natural vocals. Kelly was always modest about her guitar skills but she was a fine player and was for, a long time, one of the very few female slide guitar performers in the U.K.. Her playing, often on a 12-string guitar, was distinctive. Having said that, she was concentrating on singing, and over the years she fronted a number of bands. The final two titles, from 1984, find her fronting an eight-piece band, including Tom McGuinness on guitar, ending this enjoyable release on a high note. © Bob Tilling, Living Blues

The Jo Ann Kelly archive has been very poorly treated over the years, with only Indigo's occasional forays during the late 1990s truly spotlighting one of Britain's most underrated, but highly-treasured, blues vocalists. Into this sorry state of affairs weighs Blues Matters!, the label wing of the magazine of the same name, with a collection that totally lives up to its title. Sixteen tracks, recorded between 1967-1984, are bundled up within, and capture Kelly ranging across the stylistic spectrum. The set kicks off with four numbers taken from a rare Harlequin blues EP compilation, recorded with Tony McPhee in 1965. This was not Kelly's first session, she'd done an earlier one for Mike Vernon's Purdah label, but that remains unreleased, and thus this was the music with which Kelly was introduced to the world. Also featured are a pair of tracks from another scarce blues Harlequin compilation, this one released by the label in 1968, as well as a few more taken from other various rare collections. However, the bulk of the album boasts a stream of superb unreleased material, including no less than five songs recorded with guitarist Stefan Grossman during his U.K. tour in the summer of 1977. Kelly guested at several of his shows during that outing, and her performances -- captured for posterity on-tape by Grossman's own tape recorder, and unveiled here for the first time, are as powerful as any of her own period recordings. A wonderful album that hopefully will bring Kelly the acclaim she so justly deserves. © Jo-Ann Greene, AMG


The rock era saw a few white female singers, like Janis Joplin, show they could sing the blues. But one who could outshine them all — Jo Ann Kelly — seemed to slip through the cracks, mostly because she favored the acoustic, Delta style rather than rocking out with a heavy band behind her. But with a huge voice, and a strong guitar style influenced by Memphis Minnie and Charley Patton, she was the queen. Born January 5, 1944, Kelly and her older brother Dave were both taken by the blues, and born at the right time to take advantage of a young British blues scene in the early '60s. By 1964 she was playing in clubs, including the Star in Croydon, and had made her first limited-edition record with future Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee. She expanded to play folk and blues clubs all over Britain, generally solo, but occasionally with other artists, bringing together artists like Bessie Smith and Sister Rosetta Tharpe into her own music. After the first National Blues Federation Convention in 1968 her career seemed ready to take flight. She began playing the more lucrative college circuit, followed by her well-received debut album in 1969. At the second National Blues Convention, she jammed with Canned Heat, who invited her to join them on a permanent basis. She declined, not wanting to be a part of a band — and made the same decision when Johnny Winter offered to help her. Throughout the '70s, Kelly continued to work and record solo, while also gigging for fun in bands run by friends, outfits like Tramp and Chilli Willi — essentially pub rock, as the scene was called, and in 1979 she helped found the Blues Band, along with brother Dave, and original Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning. The band backed her on an ambitious show she staged during the early '80s, Ladies and the Blues, in which she paid tribute to her female heros. In 1988, Kelly began to suffer pain. A brain tumor was diagnosed and removed, and she seemed to have recovered, even touring again in 1990 with her brother before collapsing and dying on October 21. Posthumously, she's become a revered blues figure, one who helped clear the path for artists like Bonnie Raitt and Rory Block. But more than a figurehead, her recorded material — and unreleased sides have appeared often since her death — show that Kelly truly was a remarkable blueswoman. © Chris Nickson, allmusic.com


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