The Ledger Enquirer newspaper of Columbus, Georgia is reporting on the death of Piedmont-style blueswoman Precious Bryant after a six-week battle with complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure. Bryant was 71 years old.
Born and raised in Georgia, Bryant played country-blues with definite folk undertones, developing a finger-picked guitar style with a strong Piedmont influence. Bryant's career spanned better than 30 years, but was mostly restricted to her home state until she was "discovered" by producer and musical historian George Mitchell, which led to her performing at the Chattahoochee Folk Festival. Bryant's successful performance at the festival would lead to more work, including folk and blues festivals in both the United States and Europe.
Bryant recorded sporadically throughout her lengthy career, releasing her debut album, Fool Me Good, in 2002. The intimate recording displayed Bryant's sweetly melodic vocals and energetic guitar style across a collection of traditional folk and blues songs that earned her a Blues Music Award nomination. Three years later, Bryant returned with The Truth, expanding her sound with a full band, including her son Tony on bass, performing a set of traditional and contemporary blues and R&B songs. The album earned Bryant a second Blues Music Award nomination in a category with such talents as Koko Taylor and Etta James.
Bryant's final recording came later in 2005, when the Music Maker Relief Foundation released her acclaimed My Name Is Precious album. Again featuring a stripped-down sound, with Bryant on guitar and her son on bass, the album also included guest vocals from fellow Piedmont blues guitarist Cootie Stark. Music Maker helped Bryant financially through the final years of her life, providing a monthly stipend for medicine, food, and utilities. The non-profit relief organization also furnished Bryant with guitars and helped the artist get paying gigs. When Bryant's health no longer allowed her to tour, Music Maker and its supporters provided her with a new mobile home.
Precious Bryant was one of the last performers in a style of Southern music that is rapidly disappearing from the blues landscape. Our thoughts go out to her family, friends, and many fans around the world.
Precious Bryant and Lucas Duffy, photo by Kevin Hoppe, courtesy Music Maker Relief Foundation