Two-fisted Mama!

Katie Webster

Alligator Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's a shame that it took the recent death of blues pianist Katie Webster for me to re-evaluate her importance to the scene. Way back in 1989, when I was a mere pup in the world of college radio, my first job as the blues coordinator for the station was to listen to and program two new CDs from Alligator for the station. One of those discs (which, aah, "disappeared" when I left the station) was Two-Fisted Mama! from Webster. I loved the power, the emotion... the risquéness. Here was a larger-sized woman not ashamed to talk about sexiness, and she made you believe it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ten years after its release, this disc still packs a punch, and it makes me wonder why Webster didn't achieve greater fame while she was still alive. (She did perform with Otis Redding prior to his death in a 1967 plane crash, so it's not like she never saw the glare of the big spotlights.)

The title track, which opens up the disc, lets you know you're in the presence of a blues and r&b master (or is that "mistress" in this case?). Webster's powerful vocals and rhythmic piano work take this song, as well as others on the disc, to new levels that you probably didn't know existed in blues. The instrumental "C.Q. Boogie" solidifies her role as one of the blues world's underappreciated pianists.

The r&b aspect (quite possibly an influence from Redding) is evident on tracks like "Love Deluxe" and "Money Honey Or Honey Hush", tracks that show the versatility of her musically. And if this wasn't enough proof, check out her cover of Dire Straits's "So Far Away," done with a slight gospel tint to the music that brings the song into a whole new light. Although I was never a big fan of the original version, I can't help but like Webster's version.

The more mature side of Webster's music comes through on the tracks "Pussycat Moan" and "Red Negligee," the latter track almost completely delivered in a speaking voice by Webster. It's interesting, though the kids might not understand what she's talking about. (Relax; Webster actually handles the subject matter very discreetly.)

Two-Fisted Mama! was an album that should have turned Webster into a star; unfortunately, as is the case with far too many blues musicans, it didn't. So many people will probably discover her music now that she is gone - and that is the biggest tragedy of the blues. At least she left an album like this as her musical legacy, and it's well worth adding to your collection.

Rating: A-

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