Miss Rhythm

Brown, Ruth

album cover

She Put the R&B in R&B

Ruth Brown's brash, bright, brilliantly sung early hits helped set the table for the rhythm and blues explosion of the 1950s. Initially influenced by Dinah Washington, Brown learned early how to turn out a sorrowful torch song—check out her blue inflections on the big band warhorse "Sentimental Journey" here. Then, aided by rhythmically adventurous backing musicians versed in jazz and blues, she transported that wise way of singing to the lively rhythms of jump blues and its offshoots. The result was something mesmerizing—music suffused with the rashness of young love and informed by a veteran crooner's knowledge about the perils of romance.

Miss Rhythm gathers Brown's key early singles for Atlantic Records, many of which were not released on albums at the time. It's a showcase for tremendously disciplined singing, defined by Brown's attention to the subtleties of the beat, and her judicious ad-libbing. Among its delights are "Teardrops from My Eyes," which topped the R&B charts for eleven weeks in 1950, and "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." This being the '50s, there are dance-craze songs ("Mambo Baby") and several rockin' gems by Leiber and Stoller, the hit-making team behind the Coasters ("I Can't Hear a Word you Say").

These singles and others put Atlantic Records on the map—before Ray Charles came along, Atlantic was known as "the house that Ruth built." Brown wasn't able to maintain that success, however, and by the mid-'60s she'd dropped out of sight. After working as a maid, she returned in the 1980s to mount a sustained comeback. At that time, Brown was also among a handful of R&B pioneers who successfully campaigned to collect unpaid royalties; her work helped change the way labels compensated often-neglected heritage artists.

Genre: R&B
Released: 1989, Atlantic (Reissued 1999, Collectables)
Key Tracks: "Teardrops from My Eyes," "Lucky Lips," "Sentimental Journey," "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean."
Catalog Choice: Have a Good Time
Next Stop: Esther Phillips: Burnin'
After That: LaVern Baker: LaVern Baker
Book Pages: 123–124

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Comments:

#1 from Misty Rose, wisconsin - 02/03/2009 10:58

omg i love this music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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