A happy Monday, all! I’m hoping to get back on a more regular posting schedule. This isn’t being helped by a bout of fatigue that laid me up much of Sunday, but I’m forging ahead with this week’s Any Woman’s Blues.
Very little is known about this week’s featured artist, Mattie Delaney; in fact, she is only known to recorded two songs during her career, “Tallahatchie River Blues” & “Down the Big Road Blues.” These were issued on a 78 that’s extremely rare—apparently a mint condition copy of this record would be worth about $6,000 to $8,000 on the collector’s market.
We do know that Delaney was born in Tchula, Mississippi & that she made the two Vocalion recordings in 1930. It’s also true that around this time the effects of the Great Depression began to have a profound effect on the recording industry & that field recordings were sharply curtailed.
As things stand, Delaney is an enigmatic figure. While there were many women who became big stars as blues singers—in fact, in the early 20s all the blues recording stars were women singers—very few women in the blues were also “guitar slingers.” There was Memphis Minnie, of course, but she was associated with the city sounds of Memphis & Chicago, while Delaney is very much a “country blues” performer.
My suspicion is that Delaney was not alone; that there were other talented women guitarists playing the country blues in the “classic period” just as there are today. It’s important to remember that what we have on record from the 1920s & 1930s (& beyond) was largely determined by the tastes & biases of the men who were setting up the sessions & making the recordings.
Rory Block has covered both of Delaney’s songs, recording “Down the Big Road Blues” as “Travelin’ Blues” (on her High-Heeled Blues & Best Blues & Originals, both on Rounder); her version of “Tallahatchie Blues” appears on both When a Woman Gets the Blues & Gone Woman Blues, also both on Rounder. Lucinda Williams covered “Down the Big Road Blues” on Car Wheels on a Gravel Road from Mercury.
Hope you enjoy this rare & wonderful piece of music!