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KING 4405; OCTOBER 1950



You gotta hand it to ol’ Ivory Joe Hunter… when he broke up with somebody he sure didn’t leave them empty handed.

King Records had lost the services of the peerless singer/songwriter almost a full year ago and were still well-stocked enough with songs to issue a new release every few months.

Of course none of it was top-shelf material, more like a hodgepodge of stylistic curios, but even so, there wasn’t much that Hunter just went through the motions on and so if nothing else these stray singles, while having little chance to become hits when competing with his new releases on MGM, at least provided his fan club with something of interest while they waited for their autographed pictures of him to arrive in the mail.


You Can’t Understand
Considering Ivory Joe Hunter’s stock in trade was introspective songs about the ups and downs of love – mostly the downs – his primary theme was rather durable and as long as the backing musicians were steering clear of pop, light jazz or even country attributes in their playing, then theoretically these types of offerings had no expiration date on the immediate horizon.

Sure enough, Lying Woman is showing no signs of aging, despite having been cut way back in July of 1949, fifteen months before this finally saw the light of day.

It was hardly the oldest of his leftovers to be brought out of mothballs, in 1951 King would release tracks he cut in the waning days of 1947! Naturally the further back they went the more out of date they sounded… and as evidenced on the flip side of this release, the all too-accurately titled Too Late, some of Hunter’s work from back then was already a couple years out of date when it was recorded way back in February 1949.

The same can’t be said for this song though, not entirely anyway, for while it’s definitely not cutting edge – not even for the summer of ’49 would it be – it’s at least passable as a current song and may even find a few Hunter partisans who consider it on par with some of his more recent singles.

We won’t go quite that far, but all things considered this isn’t too big of a let down.


Don’t Take It For Granted
Though the song itself has a despondent message, as Hunter bemoaning finding out his girlfriend was only saying she loved him while all the time she was seeing another man, his vocal tone is not nearly as sad as you’d expect for such a situation.

Even in normal circumstances Ivory Joe was somebody who sang with an ache in his voice but on Lying Woman he’s more bitter than heartbroken, his cynicism finally making a belated appearance after suppressing it for so long by refusing to think ill of the softer sex no matter how many times they burned him.

Now it has to be said that he’s not angry here, he’s not breathing fire with his put-downs or anything, but at least he’s showing emotion that comes with more bite to it than the misery he usually wallows in when it comes to dealing with these constant let-downs. I guess for some people when an unwelcome truth comes to light they need some additional confirmation before fully giving in to their darker instincts… or in Hunter’s case he needs the learn the same lesson approximately 38 times before it makes an impression.

But now that it has sunk in he’s coming to the realization that maybe blind trust isn’t always advisable, especially when warning signs are all around that things aren’t the idyllic picture he wants to believe. In spite of his change of heart however he’s still not advocating anything too harsh, though I’m sure in his mind he feels a stern rebuke is equivalent to pulling no punches, he’s still taking it rather easy on her considering she was cheating on him and content to string him along for appearance sake, and I assume to ensure that Ivory Joe kept paying for the roof over her head, the food on her table and quite possibly giving her some spending money for her Friday and Saturday nights out “with the girls”. Wink-wink.

Because he’s not altogether comfortable firing volleys at his target directly he instead make broader generalizations about women as a whole, though the advice he hands out here qualifies as pretty basic stuff in your Dating For Beginners textbook. If nothing else though at least the conviction with which he spits out these critiques puts them over well enough to spare him the ignominy of having to be told that he should’ve been doing this in response to such actions from the start.

Easier To Tell A Lie Then It Is To Tell The Truth
Because his band had pretty consistent membership for much of 1949 – trumpeter Harold Baker, trombonist Tyree Glenn, saxophonist Russell Proscope and a rhythm section of Wendell Marshall and Sonny Greer on bass and drums – you might expect that their earlier pop-leaning offerings, or jazzier excursions behind Hunter would mean you were in for more of the same here.

When you learn that sitting in with the band for this session is none other than Johnny Hodges, one of the top jazz sax players in the land, you definitely would be inclined to believe that Lying Woman would revert back to their old school approach. But that’s not exactly the case, for while this is hardly vibrant rocking and rolling by any means, it’s also not venturing into a different stylistic region altogether.

The record starts off with Hunter’s tentative piano and moaning horns to set the weary mood as he goes through the litany of complaints he’s got with her. But as he moans to himself when wrapping up a thought you sense he’s giving the musicians the green light to get a little more soulful.

The sax solo is treading on the safe side of that term but it’s still got enough emotion in it to suffice and of course the playing itself is exquisite, rising and falling with remarkable self-assurance that makes it go down easy.

The rhythm behind them, while subtle, never slacks off and Hunter’s verbal asides along with his inventive fills on the keys anchor the track nicely. It’s still a slow meditative performance of course, but one just adventurish enough to make it seem livelier than it would appear on paper.

Maybe it’s something of a con job done to make you think it’s more appropriate for this field, but considering that he wasn’t reluctant to head in those other directions a lot of the time, you have to take him at his word here and view this as a fairly sincere attempt to fit into the dominant approach for this kind of rock song.

He may not quite nail it, but they’re not too far off making this something of a moral victory if nothing else.


Loves Just You
The thing you have to constantly remind yourself when dealing with Ivory Joe Hunter was that no matter how successful he was in any one genre, or even a smaller niche within a genre to tell the truth, he was never going to rigidly conform to its artistic constraints for very long.

He’d give you sides that would have you thinking he’d turned the corner on his chronic indecision and was ready to settle down, then the next time out he would head in the opposite direction altogether leaving you to wonder if it was something you said or did that caused him to flee.

As such you had to take each of Hunter’s releases as something of a singular entity rather than part of a larger tableau that all tied together.

It also meant that when you got records like Lying Woman which had elements that weren’t completely dedicated to one prevailing style but had enough to qualify in that realm all the same, you shouldn’t complain too much.

This may not be anything that was going to create a clearer picture of his artistic directions, nor was it something that would really stand out among his rock output, especially having been held over for so long that it no longer represented his current mindset, but it also wasn’t a side that would have you doubting his abilities and wondering why he was so consistently popular.

In other words it was just good enough to maintain the status quo for one of music’s more beguiling figures.


(Visit the Artist page of Ivory Joe Hunter for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)