I don't know how well known Jo Ann's recordings are. I am conscious that there are several I've not heard. But she fascinates me. She didn't take an easy path. And while there may be a few raised eyebrows at the notion of a south Londoner becoming quite so immersed in the country blues tradition there can be no doubt about the extraordinary power and beauty which drove her performances. I guess connections/recordings with John Fahey give her legacy a stamp of approval which might help people sit up and take notice.
Jo Ann's contributions to the Immediate series of modern blues LPs was where I first came across her music. And it was in Val Wilmer's Mama Told Me There'd Be Days Like This that I first read about Jo Ann. While some of her purists' blues works are wonderful, like her recording of Oh Death with T.S. McPhee, I do find myself very much drawn to the occasions where she sings a little outside of the blues' parameters. For example, she helped out the group Tramp (featuring some moonlighting Fleetwood Mac people) with some vocals on the title track of the Put A Record On LP, and it's an incredibly beautiful performance, right up there with the best blue-eyed soul moments. Beggar By Your Side from the same (Spark) LP is wonderful, too.
Jo Ann sadly died in 1990. I wonder if she were still active today whether she would be busy with all sorts of intriguing collaborations, given a resurgence of interest in roots music and English visionaries of different sorts. Who knows? This beautiful piece of film is of Jo Ann singing one of her greatest songs in a Bristol club, when she really did have little time left.
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