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OKEH 6882; MAY 1952



The longer someone has been around, the easier it is to take them for granted. We get used to their voice, their style, their sound and their mere presence in our lives.

They become scenery… destined to be overlooked and underrated.

Never was that more the case in early rock ‘n’ roll than with Annie Laurie, a singer who’s been here from the very start… always modestly successful but who never seemed to be on the brink of runaway stardom, a singer who was always really good but rarely vying with the best and who had an ability to roll with the musical punches and remain comfortable at each stage of rock’s development without ever being the one to instigate major changes along the way.

Maybe that was the trick in all this if you wanted a long career… fly under the radar and make subtle adjustments in your approach so you can handle everything that came along while never allowing people to burn out on you.

Oh, and it probably doesn’t hurt when virtually everything you put out is well worth hearing.


Why Should We End Up Broken Hearted?
On paper this would not be the record you’d think would put Annie Laurie in the best light, nor position her to further state her case as rock royalty.

After all, this was a cover of a pop song already done by artists across the spectrum this year including some other rock acts and while it’s a well written tune with a nice melody and decent lyrics, certainly applicable for rock if handled properly, it was exactly the kind of thing that record companies were prone to see as a means to achieve some sort of crossover appeal.

in fact it’d be far too easy to use a familiar title to entice pop listeners to check out a slightly more earthy version than they were accustomed to hearing, yet one that was still watered down (or lightened up, or smoothed over – take your pick of terms) to distance it from rock’s more notorious image.

When the record company in question was the subsidiary of a major label as OKeh Records was, this fear was even more acute, for who knew how much pressure Columbia was putting on them to make this venture pay off with singles that could reach a potentially larger market.

In other words, since Laurie had already long since proven she could ease into pop territory with relative comfort if called upon to do so, the odds are that the ones who might be feeling Lonesome And Blue upon seeing this release would be rock fans who were all too used to having their tastes become the first casualty in an artist or label’s attempts at “upward mobility”.

So imagine your surprise when it turns out Annie Laurie and OKeh Records weren’t making this for someone else’s ears after all, but rather were aiming this right at your own heart… and hitting it with relative ease.


I Can’t Conceal The Way I Feel
Though admittedly it’s a little self-serving to put his own name prominently on the record label – “Under The Direction Of Danny Kessler” – we have to admit that the kid who was handed the reins of the label without any experience in producing records, Kessler had exceeded everyone’s expectations.

He did this by simply not interfering in the artist’s presentation, letting them be themselves rather than trying to get them to conform to the parent label’s views on what constituted “good” music.

Respect is a two way street and by respecting their abilities and instincts, he in turn was respected and well liked by the artists.

On Lonesome And Blue he earns our respect because it would’ve been so easy to conform to the pop blueprint already established and merely give Annie Laurie just enough room to add a little something personal in her delivery while dressing up the arrangement for a classier audience and call it a day.

Instead Kessler ensures that this record sounds different than its competitors before Laurie even opens her mouth, letting an aggressive guitar reverberating off the studio walls give this the kind of dramatic opening that no pop version would dare, immediately distancing itself from the song’s rather tame origins.

Though the guitar is not playing anything that’s going to alter the course of music history, its mere presence being played in such a manner is such a positive sign for rock fans that all Laurie has to do not trip and fall for this to be something worth our time and attention.

Laurie does far more than that however, investing the song with her usual grace, smoldering vocals and emotional commitment to the story, sounding as if her heart is aching but not breaking, trying to use the words to convince the guy in question that she’s tormented by the fight that led to their temporary separation while navigating the tricky balance of suggesting that she may be veering closer to the edge of despair the longer it goes on, but at the same time letting him know that she’s not giving up on them getting back together.

Her unwavering belief… in herself, in him, in the potential for a great romance… carries her and in the process lifts the song in the way the composers had to have envisioned.

Though Laurie only really breaks out her most dynamic singing twice her passion is always present, bubbling under the surface and you can feel her desire and pain mingling in her soul. That’s where the guitar acts as the release valve every time the pressure gets to be too much to hold in. The saxophone does its best to match that in its brief soloing spot and does a fairly good job, but it’s bound to take a back seat to the singer and lethal axe.

But truth be told there’s never a single second of this performance to find fault with and though it may have come from rather suspect origins, Laurie, the band and Danny Kessler, whatever his contributions, turned it into something genuinely heartfelt and soulful.


Sighing, Sighing, Sighing For You
It’s hardly surprising that people tend to be able to instantly spot the stars in the rock sky which shine brightest. They have the biggest hits and the most enduring classics, they bring something new to the table and influence the direction of the music to follow and their name recognition remains strong even seven decades down the line.

Annie Laurie wouldn’t seem to qualify on any of those counts.

But don’t look now because she is sneakily building a very impressive résumé of which Lonesome And Blue is yet another impressive peak in the mountain range of releases she’s putting together.

By now we – and she, not to mention they, as in OKeh Records – probably know that Laurie is never going to be a superstar, but when you’re as consistently reliable as she’s been over her career and seemingly immune from the stylistic changes that have marked rock ‘n’ roll since her first appearance way back in 1947, it’s starting to look as though she might outlast all of her competitors.

One thing’s for sure, when her name comes up on the upcoming release rolls, nobody is about to beg off hearing her latest sides… not when they always have the potential of being as good as this one.


(Visit the Artist page of Annie Laurie for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)