The coda to this excellent collection of rural, all-woman Southern music by a clutch of North Carolina mothers of song is a stirring gospel tale by Mississippi singer Cora Fluker. Moving gracefully from spoken anecdote to hymn, Ms. Fluker sums up this disc's focus on personal experience expressed in heartfelt tales. The collection is a mix of sacred music and secular blues, from strong women already passed on to living legends and small town heroines. The music of these "Sisters," sources of strength in their churches and communities, is sometimes drowned out by the flood of roots music produced today. Thanks to Hillsborough-based Music Maker Relief Foundation, these artists' music gains exposure.
Well-known singers like Piedmont guitarist Etta Baker and Winston-Salem-via-Georgia singer Willa Mae Buckner offer strong, bluesy etudes, both delicate and precocious. Johnston County gospel duo The Branchettes provide a soaring old congregational style hymn, "I Know I've Been Changed," that will raise hairs on the arms of even the most apathetic listener. Carolina guitarist and buck dancer Algia Mae Hinton contributes an upbeat rag with "Step It Up and Go," while Roanoke Rapids' Marie Manning provides an electric gospel sketch of the hard scrabble life many of the musicians encounter in " Hard Luck and Trouble."
It is the rollicking "Baghdad Blues" of Beverly "Guitar" Watkins that shows a contemporary glimpse of this music keeping up with headlines. In it, Ms. Watkins declares "Baghdad/Had been hit/You know all these nations need to quit...It is up/ to each country/to end this war..." Embrace more of our region's African-American women and their music with this stellar collection. For more information, check out www.musicmaker.org.