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Big Mama Thornton - Ball N' Chain (1965)

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Big Mama Thornton - Ball N' Chain (1965)

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A1 	Sweet Little Angel 	
A2 	Unlucky Girl 	
A3 	Swing It On Home 	
A4 	Little Red Rooster 	
A5 	Hound Dog 	
A6 	Your Love Is Where It Ought To Be 	
A7 	School Boy 	
A8 	My Heavy Load 	
B1 	I'm Feeling Alright 	
B2 	Sometimes I Have A Heartache 	
B3 	Black Rat 	
B4 	Life Goes On 	
B5 	Bumble Bee 	
B6 	Gimme A Penny 	
B7 	Wade In The Water 	
B8 	Ball 'N' Chain

Bass – Curtis Tillman (tracks: 9 to 14), Jimmie Lee Robinson (tracks: 1 to 5),
 	Luther Johnson (tracks: 9 to 14)
Drums – Francis Clay (tracks: 9 to 14), Fred Below (tracks: 1 to 5), Gus Wright (tracks: 9 to 14)
Guitar – Edward "Bee" Houston (tracks: 15, 16), Buddy Guy (tracks: 1 to 5),
 	Fred McDowell (tracks: 7, 8), Muddy Waters (tracks: 9 to 14), Samuel Lawhorn (tracks: 9 to 14)
Harmonica – James Cotton (tracks: 9 to 14), Walter Horton (tracks: 2, 5)
Piano – Nathaniel Dove (tracks: 9 to 14), Otis Spann (tracks: 9 to 14)
Piano, Organ – Eddie Boyd (tracks: 1 to 5)
Tenor Saxophone – Everett Minor (tracks: 9 to 14)
Vocals – Big Mama Thornton
Vocals, Harmonica, Drums – Big Mama Thornton (tracks: 6)

 

Arhoolie's Ball n' Chain is a terrific collection of late-'60s recordings from Big Mama Thornton. Supported on various tracks by Lightnin' Hopkins and Larry Williams, Big Mama runs through such familiar items as "Hound Dog," "Sometimes I Have a Heartache," "Sweet Little Angel," "Little Red Rooster," "Wade in the Water," and "Ball and Chain," turning in generally powerful performances. By and large, these don't necessarily rival her classic '50s recordings, but they are worth investigating if you're looking for something more. --- Thom Owens

 

Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (December 11, 1926 – July 25, 1984) was an American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. She was the first to record the hit song "Hound Dog" in 1952. The song was #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks in 1953. The B-side was "They Call Me Big Mama," and the single sold almost two million copies. Three years later, Elvis Presley recorded his version, based on a version performed by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. In a similar occurrence, she wrote and recorded "Ball 'n' Chain," which became a hit for her. In 1965 she performed with the American Folk Blues Festival package in Europe. While in England that year, she recorded Big Mama Thornton in Europe and followed it up the next year in San Francisco with Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band. Both albums came out on the Arhoolie label. Thornton continued to record for Vanguard, Mercury, and other small labels in the 1970s and to work the blues festival circuit until her death in 1984, the same year she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

During her career, she appeared on stages from New York City's Apollo Theater in 1952 to the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980, and was nominated for the Blues Music Awards six times. In addition to "Ball 'n' Chain" and "They Call Me Big Mama," Thornton wrote twenty other blues songs.

In the 1970s years of heavy drinking began to hurt Thornton's health. She was in a serious auto accident but recovered to perform at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, a recording of which is called The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting on Buddha Records.

Thornton died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on July 25, 1984, at age 57. ---bmansbluesreport.com

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