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IMPERIAL 5087; JULY 1950



The title of this record should speak for all of us who are dejected about having to prepare to bid adieu to somebody we only met last December.

Her debut heralded a major new artist had arrived on the scene and while she hasn’t quite been able to match that in the seven months since she’s come close a couple of times and her abilities – as a singer and at times a songwriter – are pretty evident each time out.

Because great artists don’t grow on trees and because ideally we could never have too many skilled vocalists to choose from, the loss of even one from the ranks before her time was up is enough to make anybody feel pretty low down.


Two Different People
The unusual thing to deal with with this song is that it was actually one of the first cuts she laid down way back in November 1949 at her initial session for Imperial just after she became the first signing instigated by Dave Bartholomew following his hiring as the company’s lead producer for their revitalized push into the rock universe.

It had in many ways been a matter of convenience, one based on both proximity and familiarity as Bartholomew had backed her on a few songs cut for DeLuxe Records the year before, none of which had been released until the Twenty-First Century with the fantastic multi-artist compilation Beef Ball Baby.

Since that time Jewel King had been singing in clubs around New Orleans and when Dave was tabbed to head up Imperial’s rock sessions last fall he needed to bring in people he knew and was comfortable with who had talent but also hadn’t had prior opportunities to showcase that talent on record.

After all, Bartholomew wanted to impress Imperial’s owner Lew Chudd and that’d theoretically be easier to do if the names he brought in were complete unknowns rather than assorted journeymen with a handful of failed releases on other labels, for even if he were to coax hits of those kind of veteran performers he wouldn’t rightly be able to say he “discovered” them.

So with artists like Tommy Ridgley, Fats Domino, Archibald and Jewel King he had blank slates to work with and he wound up getting big hits from the latter three, a pretty high batting average for a novice behind the glass.

By July of 1950 his position with the company was secure and Imperial’s commitment to rock ‘n’ roll had paid huge dividends so the final release of one of those stars who was now departing wasn’t going to effect the way anybody viewed the label or the producer.

As for Jewel King herself, well, Low Down Feeling pretty much confirms what we already knew of her, she was a damn good singer whose emotional grasp of the content was always the best thing she brought to the table.

I Woke Up This Morning
With its excessively drawn out introduction replete with Bartholomew’s own crying trumpet at the forefront, the song sounds a few years out of date until Jewel King swoops in to rescue it from irrelevancy with a strong held note that refocuses your attention.

Because Low Down Feeling is taken at such a deliberate pace with very little room for instrumental flamboyance the responsibility of selling the song going to fall squarely on King’s shoulders and as usual she doesn’t disappoint, displaying total command of the nuances of her voice while not being at all self-conscious about baring her soul in conveying the stark lyrics as she recounts her man’s rejection of her.

The many textures of her voice are all on display here, swelling with emotion then receding with despair, teasing with the promise of fleeting hope and aching when that hope is shattered.

Because the melody itself is fixed with the very precise band reading, King does all she can to manipulate it to change its meaning, using volume, tonal shifts and especially the judicious use of holding notes to emphasize the points she’s trying to make and reveal the extent of her heartbreak.

When she pleads for his compassion (dig the way she throws in an extra – and extra soft – “baby” the second time through) only to have her man respond in the cruelest way imaginable to her tender hesitancy as she unveils this exchange makes the payoff all the more impactful.

The lyrics themselves are fairly standard for the topic… her sadness is laid bare from the start, the reasons behind it spelled out in a broad manner and the confrontation comes just at the point you expect it to, right after the midway point, though they’re a little more cold and heartless than we’re used to.

Where it deviates a little from the typical pattern is in its conclusion where King manages to toss in a glimmer of resiliency in her send-off line, giving us one more reason to root for her even though we know all too well how this story – both in the song and in her career – will play out.

Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do?
In real life situations as this, where somebody has clearly been hurt but are out of harm’s way and merely recounting their story, it can be a little difficult to know just how to respond other than offering basic support… which is essentially what the band does here.

Bartholomew’s crew don’t turn their back on King as she describes her ordeal by any means, they’re quiet and respectful of her feelings and don’t intrude with a lot of questions or demand deeper explanations, but they also aren’t quite pulling her closer, enveloping her with a warmer aural embrace and reassuring her that things are going to be alright.

Not completely detached, but still somewhat distant in other words.

For the most part the band keeps their parts consistently subdued, and so thankfully we get no out of place moments where Dave or somebody else tries to intrude on the moment and break the delicate mood she’s creating with a jazzy solo or ill-suited response to one of her lines.

About the only moment you really notice them in that regard is when Bartholomew discreetly plays “Here Comes The Bride” like it were a funeral dirge when she describes their breakup and while that has the potential to be mocking and turn her confessions into a farce he clearly doesn’t intend it to be and because he’s so demure in how he plays it the effect it has on you as a listener is far more subtle.

The rest of Low Down Feeling isn’t even as adventurish as that brief whimsical addition, as Salvador Doucette offers plaintive triplets on piano while the saxophones moan softly in the distance. There’s not many parts here of course, but the blend is discreet which goes a long way in keeping you riveted on King herself while still providing just enough shifts behind her to not let it get repetitive or dull.

It’s a modest arrangement by design and if you think it’s a little underwhelming to hear in passing you’ll quickly realize that it was the best choice for Bartholomew to make because it compliments the singer’s mood perfectly. By resisting any urge to stand out in his own right you can see why Bartholomew would have such a long fruitful career as one of rock’s most talented producers.

Still Getting Rid Of You
A long and fruitful career did not await Jewel King of course, though she obviously had no idea of that when she laid down this song just as that career was getting off the ground.

While Low Down Feeling was not the kind of record that would jump out at you as something that had the potential to make her a star, which is probably why Imperial held it back so long, it did give notice as to why she was somebody worth investing in for the long term, no matter what unreasonable demands were later made on her behalf.

Songs like this require more patience and a deeper analysis to really appreciate which is what makes it cruelly ironic in retrospect that the more you hear her, the more you want to hear, yet after this release you won’t get to hear her anymore.

In the annals of rock history Jewel King is hardly the only one who deserved better than she got, but that doesn’t mean it becomes any easier to accept when it happens.


(Visit the Artist page of Jewel King for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)