Jesse Mae Hemphill, Get Right Blues

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The female Howlin’ Wolf?

The granddaughter of legendary North Mississippi Hill Country fife and drum band leader Sid Hemphill, Jesse Mae was a sizzling slide guitarist who could also sing like a female Howlin 'Wolf. Her razor-sharp rhythmic, sometimes droning, style could take apart a familiar blues like "Mystery Train" and reassemble it as a brand new, rough-and-tumble admonition like "Streamline Train" that was spookier than the original. These ragged, hard-edged blues and gospel performances from 1979 and 1984-5 offer a devastating slice of what Jim Dickinson calls "world boogie."