Although she was "discovered" by folklorist George Mitchell in 1969—and even cut a few tracks for him that showed up on various compilations—Precious Bryant spent most of her life raising her kids and playing at small parties for friends. Now 60, Bryant is the kind of anomaly that blues purists dream about, although she watches TV, she has largely avoided the radio in favor of the blues and spirituals she grew up with and learned from her father and uncle. Her guitar work is brilliant, untainted by the blues rock of the past decades, and marked by bottomless bass notes, chiming arpeggios on the high strings, some ragtime pickin’ and gently driving rhythms. Her singing is just as unique, a lilting effortless alto that mixes Gospel fervor and working-class tenacity.
Bryant’s blues may be steeped in the language of hard times, but the songs are leavened by her sprightly rhythms and optimistic world view. Even when singing of hard luck and heartache, as on Willie McTell’s "Broke and Ain’t Got a Dime" and her own "Fool Me Good," her irrepressible good nature shines through. Like Libba Cotton and Mississippi John Hurt before her, Bryant uses the blues a starting point to create her own inimitable style of picking and singing. Another mark of a great musician is the ability to take the work of others and make it their own; Bryant’s arrangements of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and Little Willie John’s "Fever" bear no resemblance to anything you’ve ever heard; the tunes have been turned inside out and transformed by Bryant’s picking an unique rhythmic phrasing.