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Blues Women in a Class by Themselves, August 15, 2008
By Gretchen Lee Bourquin (Minneapolis, MN) – See all my reviews

When I first heard of Rhetta Akamatsu’s new book T’aint Nobody’s Business If I Do: Women Blues Singers Old and New I was intrigued. The book chronicles the lives and struggles of the great female blues singers in the last century.

I like blues music; the rhythms, feeling and drama behind it. But I had never considered that “women’s blues” was something different and distinct from “men’s blues” Akamatsu illustrates that it definitely has it’s own place. Women’s blues is sassier, tougher and more rebellious than the men’s blues – not that Muddy Waters and B.B. King are anything to sneeze at. But when women got the blues they didn’t shrivel in the corner. They stood up and fought back with a strong voice and sometimes with both fists.

The book begins in a casual, conversational , tone that like the women of the blues makes no apologies. It is well researched and chronicles eighteen different blues acts, including Mamie Smith, Etta James, Janis Joplin, the blues group Saffire and many more.

This book made me look at blues music differently. It is more than just a genre or form of music, but carries a feeling that transcends whatever genre was prevalent at the time from Vaudeville to Rock and Roll.

T’aint Nobody’s Business gives a good overview of different female blues performers laid out in a way that is both informative and entertaining. But I give one warning – This book definitely left me wanting more. I think it might be time to buy a new CD. I hope I can pick just one.

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