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Eden Brent: Nothing Makes Her Happy

The piano takes off with a bouncy blues wind-up. Up at the mic is a singer with a raspy Bessie Smith vibe, a hint of nasality and "come up and see me sometime" sexuality. As the song's title indicates, she "Ain't Got No Troubles." But the reason for her trouble-free state is her lack of anything -- no man, no home to keep him in, no nickels to rub together, no one to call her, no job to quit, and no membership in either a church or a social club. (On the other hand, she can never sin or be snubbed.) The song exemplifies a blues tradition: the double negative. Ain't it swell to be poor and lonely? A stinging guitar, moaning horns, tap-dancing drumsticks and rollicking piano lines create a mix of musical pain and pleasure for the faux merriment.

The recording sounds as if it were bootlegged in an obscure juke joint back in the 1920s. But the singer is fresh-faced, fair-skinned Mississippian Eden Brent, a 44-year-old singer/pianist; she's got a degree in music theory, but she's also apprenticed with the late Delta bluesman Abie "Boogaloo" Ames. As for the voice, she's an expert channeler of old-time blueswomen, although her vocals, honed in clubs where she had to sing over the piano without much amplification, sound irresistibly fresh. Inspired by Brent's mother, who she says was happiest as a sharecropper's daughter, "Ain't Got No Troubles" finds the singer facing an ironic fate: It's strong enough to add to her growing success -- and, by extension, her worries.

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.