May Lou Williams is one of a long-list of under-appreciated artists. She wrote and performed her own music, and even handled the liner notes herself, as she did on this LP.
She started off playing with Duke Ellington as a young teen. Moving from Atlanta to the mid-west, she played in bands with her husband, saxophonist John Overton Williams. To support themselves, when not performing, she was employed transporting bodies for an undertaker. You can’t get more bluesy than that.
Later in her career, she began to write more spiritual music, and in fact is the first Jazz Musician to have have played St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
This fantastic album not only showcases her heartfelt (if not always perfect) singing voice on the title track and a few others, but her prowess at the keys. Vocalist Cynthia Tyson sings on most of the tracks. Bassist Buster Williams also shines on this album.
On the liner notes she states at one point in her career she thought the blues were too simple, so it is satisfying to hear her come back to them and perform various styles of blues, boogie boogie & be-bop.
The album was originally released on Pablo records in 1978, but re-issued in 1980 and again in 2005.
If you’d like to read more about her, there’s a wonderful piece in Folkways, written by her friend and manager, Jesuit Peter O’Brien.