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Jonathan Woolf
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Annette Hanshaw – The Personality Girl
Her 53 Finest
rec. 1926-34
RETROSPECTIVE RTS4304 [79:32 + 79:55]

The great discographer Brian Rust used to wax lyrical about Annette Hanshaw on his radio programme. He seldom missed an opportunity to promote her discs and wrote sleeve notes for some of her LPs that came out in the 1970s and early 80s. He must have loved the elegant and relaxed nature of her singing and the peppy accompaniments provided by the supporting instrumentalists who tended to come from the Red Nichols-Adrian Rollini-Joe Venuti side of things: perfect Rust players, in fact.

Hanshaw’s career on discs was brief at only eight years, but saw a tranche of 78s for Pathé Actuelle and then a series of labels such as similarly cheap Harmony, Okeh and Perfect: she made some sides for Columbia which would have garnered her a bigger slice of the recorded cake.

The earliest sides show her Helen Kane persona with its little-girl vogue and Hanshaw’s almost ubiquitous ‘that’s all’ sign-off, something that can get a bit tedious. Her useful, functional piano playing was put to good use when she played and sang on these earlier numbers – things like Gershwin’s Do, Do, Do, for example. But she soon came into her own. I always think Ain’t He Sweet is one of the Sounds of 1927. The Original Memphis Five began to accompany her in April 1927 – Nichols and Miff Mole to the fore with Ray Baduc driving the rhythm on drums – but the classic accompaniment came from Rollini, Venuti, Eddie Lang and Vic Berton soon after. Fluffy some of the songs may have been but there’s such vivacity and élan in the singing and playing that one suspends critical judgement for the duration.

By the end of 1927 the song selection was becoming honed. There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth The Salt of My Tears comfortably predates the Bix ’n’ Bing version with Paul Whiteman that was recorded two years later. But she still had time to do an impersonation of Kane in Button Up Your Overcoat – something that may be lost to those today who’ve never encountered her. The great sidemen continued, a roll call of the most eminent white musicians of the day; Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, Arthur Schutt, Glenn Miller (as part of Ben Selvin’s band), Muggsy Spanier, Manny Klein and many more. And the great songs continued in the early 30s; the beautifully concentrated Loveable and Sweet, one of my personal favourites, the stoic romanticism (with seldom heard verse) of Body and Soul, the charm and light-heartedness of Ho-Hum and Say It Isn’t So. By 1932 her rhythm is perfectly relaxed – early on it could be a little too tense – and her vibrato richer and warmer without sacrificing anything of her inimitable self. She could deal with the melancholic balladry of Moon Song, That Wasn’t Meant For Me as well as more up-tempo pieces. And how wonderful, how Hanshawesque, that she recorded one of the greatest performances of the 1930s in her final session, the astonishingly beautiful, life-affirming Let’s Fall In Love. No wonder Brian Rust was more than half in love with her memory.

Thankfully Peter Dempsey has produced one of his excellent booklet notes and the recordings sound scrubbed and clean.

Jonathan Woolf


The Black Bottom
Six Feet of Papa
Do, Do, Do
Everything's Made for Love
Ain't He Sweet?
It All Depends on You
Here or There, As Long as I'm with You
Wistful and Blue
I'm Somebody's Somebody Now
I Like What You Like
Ain't That a Grand and Glorious Feeling?
Wh-Oo? You-Oo, That's Who!
Under the Moon
Miss Annabelle Lee
From Now On
It Was Only a Sun Shower
Who's That Knockin' at My Door
Just Another Day Wasted Away
What'll You Do?
The Song Is Ended, But the Melody Lingers On
Thinking of You
There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears
The Japanese Sandman
Get out and Get Under the Moon
Mean to Me
Button up Your Overcoat
You Wouldn't Fool Me, Would You?
That's You, Baby
Big City Blues
Am I Blue?
Pagan Love Song
Lovable and Sweet
The Right Kind of Man
I Have to Have You
Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love
I'm Following You
Telling It to the Daisies
Little White Lies
I Want a Good Man, And I Want Him Bad
Body and Soul
I Hate Myself for Falling in Love with You
Would You Like to Take a Walk?
Walkin' My Baby Back Home
We Just Couldn't Say "Goodbye"
Say It Isn't So
Fit as a Fiddle
Moon Song, That Wasn't Meant for Me
Twenty Million People
I Cover the Waterfront
Let's Fall in Love



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