Milestone Recordings in American Music


Lovable and Sweet (1929)

These final three recordings from 1929 feature three very talented ladies singing lovely, jazzy pop songs. All three are sweet slices of pure heaven.

Annette Hanshaw
Lovable and Sweet(Okeh 41292, 1929)

Annette Hanshaw was one of the first great female jazz singers. “Loveable And Sweet” was one of her best records, and is a great showcase for her easy-going, accessible style and a natural sense of swing. Her tone fluctuates subtly between matter-of-fact and dreamy as she describes her man: “Talk about your perfect lover / And you couldn’t help discover / That he’s that way lovable and sweet / He’s candy!” The instrumentation is well done, as is Hanshaw’s effortless scat singing, and they match the charming tone of the rest of the song. The song slows to a perfect end, as the dreaminess finally wins when Hanshaw delivers the final, affectionate line: “He’s very loveable, and oh so sweet.”

~ You may also like: Marion Harris, “The Man I Love” (Victor 21116, 1928)

Ruth Etting
Love Me or Leave Me (Columbia 1680-D, 1929)

Ruth Etting was one of the most popular singers of the late 1920s and early ‘30s. Compare her style to Annette Hanshaw or Ethel Waters, and you’ll hear a big difference: while Etting’s style and accompaniment was certainly flavored by the jazz of her time, she sang her songs in a by-the-book pop style instead of the looser, improvised feel of true jazz singers. “Love Me or Leave Me” was her signature song, and in this recording Etting relies on her expressive, versatile voice to deliver the sentimental lyrics. Twice in the song she sings: “There’ll be no one unless that someone is you / I intend to be independently blue.” Notice how she hits the word “you” in those places. The first time, she hits a high, clear, beautiful note that perfectly captures her sense of sad resolve. But as the song progresses, more emotion bubbles to the surface, and when she sings that line again, the word “you” starts on an even higher note, but wavers dynamically.

~ You may also like: Ruth Etting, “Ten Cents a Dance” (Columbia 2146-D, 1930)

Ethel Waters
Am I Blue? (Columbia 1837-D, 1929)

Ethel Waters was a versatile blues, jazz and pop singer, and one of the most popular entertainers of her day. “Am I Blue?” was one of her best recordings, a dazzling performance that bears witness to her remarkable range. She sings the verses in a very earthy, bluesy fashion, but her approach becomes lighter and jazzier for the choruses. Along the way, she freely varies her tone and timing, bending the song to her will with a supreme sense of showmanship. He voice goes from rough and raspy to pure and sweet with ease, and it is always highly expressive: at times she almost shouts the lines, and at other times she almost cries them. The jazz instruments follow her lead, providing an understated, bluesy backdrop that shadows her tone step for step and provides just the right accompaniment for her incredible voice.

~ You may also like: Willard Robison, “Deep Elm” (Perfect 12387, 1927)


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