Precious Bryant passed away this week on January 12th, 2013 at the age of 71. She was on a par with Etta Baker as a virtuoso performer, interpreting everything from trad tunes to classic blues, and writing some of her own material. Toward the end of her life, she started playing guitar with her son's electric blues band, and the results were marvelous. - MC
Mama always said that whatever’s good is worth waiting for. But having to mark time until Precious Bryant released her stunning full-length recording debut in 2002 with Fool Me Good (Terminus Records) was almost too much to ask.
Fool Me Good is a solo acoustic blues album covering classics by artists like Blind Willie McTell as well as traditional and original tunes -- including the title track -- composed by the artist.
Fool Me Good was released 35 years after Precious Bryant recorded just two songs for a Rounder Records anthology (Rounder LP 2008). Her syncopated Piedmont-style guitar and a sweetly appealing voice that resembles Victoria Spivey’s, made this CD a classic among fans, who see in Bryant one of the more beguiling blues artists since Memphis Minnie.
Born in 1942 in Talbot County, Georgia, she retains memories of the harshness of farming and life in the racially volatile South. Fortunately, she grew up in a loving and musical family. Her father, a traditional blues artist, bought Precious her first guitar at age six -- a big old dreadnought he encouraged her to play despite its outlandish size.
Given her maturity and background, it’s no surprise that she’s able to convey emotional truth in her songs.
Speaking of truth – actually, Bryant's 14-track The Truth -- it’s said that a second album release can easily tank because the artist has had less time to work on it.
However, The Truth is even more appealing than Fool Me Good, because Bryant has expanded her repertoire to include hard driving, foot-stomping R&B that comes as close to early rock and roll as a blues artist usually gets.
The choices are eclectic -- from the spiritual (“Sit Down, Servant,” “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray”) to songs of personal trial (“Last Time,” “Tennessee Song”), and the sensually evocative (“Don’t Jump My Pony,” “You Can Have My Husband -- But Don’t Take My Man”).
Bryant’s phrasing is underscored by her masterful playing. When she sings, “I Wish I Could Hear My Mother Pray,” you can almost see the hearse wending its way down the cemetery road.
The Truth shows a charismatic performer in her artistic prime having fun with acoustic and electric guitars, playing with a group of rhythm-roiling sidemen that includes her son Tony Bryant on bass.
If someone were to ask my recommendation for an excellent blues and R&B recording that doesn’t get stale if you play it all day, I’d have to say it’s Precious Bryant’s most recent release. And that’s The Truth.
Artists: Precious Bryant, guitar and vocals with Tony Bryant (bass), J.D. Mark (drums), Jake Fussell (guitar) and Amos Harvey (bass on track six; also producer)
CD Title: Precious Bryant: The Truth
Label: Terminus Records #0407-2
Reprinted from Blues Revue, 3/12.