Kitty Empire at The Guardian:
This timely republication of Bessie Smith, with a new introduction extolling hercontinued relevance, charts some of the distance travelled both by the publishing industry and by Kay herself, now Scotland’s makar, or poet laureate. Time hasn’t dimmed the book’s restlessly creative scholarship. Mixing academic rigour, authorial autobiography and poetic licence, this slim text’s selected bibliography runs to 22 titles. Throughout, Kay traces the heyday of the blueswomen, from the voodoo queens to the era of wax and “race records”, where copyright was still in the future and royalties optional.
In an echo of Chuck D’s famous dictum that hip-hop was “black people’s CNN”, the blues recorded an alternative history of racist acts, of poverty and injustice, but also of obvious sexual innuendo – all those jelly rolls – and high times.