B.B. King, Singin’ the Blues

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 12.28.11 in Reviews

Singin' the Blues + More B.B. King (Bonus Track Version)

B.B. King
Essentially his first album

This is essentially B.B. King’s first album, released five years after his first hit single, minus one song and plus 14 more. It is jam-packed with early hits, from the slow and anguished “3 O’Clock in the Morning,” with its kinetic interplay between King’s voice and guitar, to the nervous energy of “Every Day I Have the Blues,” from the gleeful explicitness of “You Upset Me Baby” and “Sweet Little Angel” to the uncertainty and insecurity of “Please Love Me” and “Did You Ever Love a Woman.” In his earliest days, B was arguably more a singer than a guitarist. His use of gospel-style melisma (singing the same syllable over several notes) was unforced on even these early records, while his voice was naturally sonorous; his vocal style and sound was his own. But his guitar work was still very much under the sway of T-Bone Walker, even if a bit fuller sounding, the better to boogie Memphis-style. More than anything, it’s his persona that sets King apart from the era’s blues peers; ultimately, he has little of their swagger, but responds to life’s pains and pleasures with a realistic kind of vulnerability.