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Author Topic: Washington Phillips  (Read 8728 times)

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Offline outfidel

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Washington Phillips
« on: March 02, 2004, 04:09:58 PM »
Does anyone have tab (guitar, not zither or dolceola or whatever) that they can share for Washington Phillips songs?

I'm most interested in "Denomination Blues" and "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today" -- but Phillips fascinates me and I'd be interested in learning any of his songs.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: April 21, 2004, 06:33:08 PM by Slack »
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2004, 05:52:55 PM »
Hey Michael,
Try posting over at the IGS forum, as I know Dennis Roger Reed has been working on a version of Denomination Blues which he just posted, here, about having showcased at the Folk Alliance in San Diego. He was chagrined because all his other songs were original but DB was all anyone wanted to talk about. I was in a workshop here in the bay area where he was asking Mary Flower for some ideas, but when he showed her he was using two partial capos to create the tuning she just laughed and threw up her hands. It sounded great tho'. If I remember right, he used a 5 string capo at the second fret, leaving the bass E open , and a 3 string capo on the fourth fret of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings (like an 'A' chord below the other capo). So strummed this gave a 'B' chord with an 'E' bass. Hmm, that doesn't sound right. Maybe he also detuned the bass 'E' string. But he was using relatively straight forward little figures and pulling on that low note perhaps in the IV chord, that would make sense. It did have a very different sound.
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John C.
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2004, 10:07:02 PM »
I have a half-baked version of Denom Blues using open G slide, sometimes 12 string. Version was originally inspired by Ry Cooder's but sounds nothing like it any more. I think DB (and Tattler etc) sound good on a high pitched instrument like a mando or Tacoma Papoose.

I've always opined that the dulceola is such a strange happy sounding thing you couldn't get a blue note out of one if you tossed it off a cliff. I just love his songs though.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2004, 06:30:57 AM »
As an aside, there an interesting (and very detailed) analysis of Washington Phillips and how he did not play the dulceola on his recordings here. At Port Townsend last year, Andy Cohen went on about the no dulceola theory. And also played a mean dulceola. (You ain't heard boogie woogie until you've heard it being played on a dulceola.)

If memory serves (which it rarely does), John Miller once fooled around with a Phillips tune at Port Townsend by capoing up real high and playing out of a C position (or G?). It was pretty straightforward and sounded remarkably nice. This technique might work even better on a twelve-string.

uncle bud

Offline frankie

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2004, 11:15:42 AM »
Outfidel, I'm not sure if you're interested in doing these tunes in their actual keys or not, but it seems like a good way to find a starting point for working out a way to play these tunes.? I don't have my tuner handy, but fooling around with Denomination Blues, it sounds like it's played in the absolute key of F (based on where I'm pitched at the moment, which may not be A=440).

Given that, there's some nice movement over the V chord that descends from a high E (12th fret) to A, followed by a little riff that goes from C descending to A.? You could work it out in F, but capoing would tend to result in a more "chimey" sound - something that would echo the sweetness of whatever instrument is being played by Phillips.

My first impulse was to work it out in C, capoed at the fifth fret, but after messing with it, if you lower the 6th string to D and capo at the 3rd fret, a lot of the figures work really nicely in the key of D - and in more than one octave.? If one were so inclined, I imagine that one could "Spence-ify" the very last riff and play it on the middle two strings - something that occurs over and over in Joseph Spence's music.

There's no real reason to play in dropped-D, though - sometimes it's fun to work in D without having that tonic note trying to get your attention all the time...
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 03:41:48 PM by Johnm »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2004, 12:08:24 PM »
Looks like frank's hooked!  O0

Offline frankie

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2004, 01:35:27 PM »
hehe - that's not hard...  nice tunes!

Anyway, What Are They Doing in Heaven Today seems to me to also work out more or less to the key of F, but the melodic countour is a little different.  It sounds like, on the chorus, the tonic chord is F6 - how jazzy!  One way to play this would be to plop a capo down on the eighth fret an play out of A position.  The tonic 6th chord sounds pretty nice capoed up like that.

The really challenge seems to me to be able to play in triple-meter without sounding like a brass band.  WP has a nice pulse going, but it never pushes its way to the front the way it can when you're playing in an alternating bass mode.  Can't say that I've worked out a satisfactory way to do this for myself...  I remember John Miller playing this tune, I think in this way, when I was at PT in '01 - can't remember how he made the bass work, though...

Offline outfidel

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2004, 04:49:41 PM »
The sentiments are even more resonant today then they were then IMO

Amen, and thanks for posting those great lyrics.
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Offline Bill Roggensack

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Re: Guitar tab for Washington Phillips?
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2004, 10:29:37 PM »
Rivers:

furgamint = sacrament (but that furgamint sounds like an interesting grape!)

Uncle Bud:

In his afternoon class at PTCBW on June 28, 2001 John Miller presented the Washington Phillips classic "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today" in a workshop of Gospel Blues that also included: "Beulah Land" (MS John Hurt), "Where Shall I Be When the First Trumpet Sounds" (Blind Lemon), "The Rain Don't Fall on Me" (Bill Johnson), and "Woke Up This Morning" (Roosevelt and Aaron Graves). The Washington Phillips tune was played in the key of F, capo VIII using the A position for the root chord. John showed us how to obtain a nice jangly sound by using soft thumb brushes combined with pinching upstrokes on the skinny strings. I've been a sucker for Washington Phillips ever since I first heard "Denomination Blues" on Ry Cooder's "Into the Purple Valley" sometime around 1972! It's an LP which I still have, even though my Cooder collection has been mostly updated to CDs.

On the subject of Gospel Blues, my copy of "Goodbye, Babylon" arrived in the mail on Friday, and I've spent most of the evening reading the amazing liner notes. I'll report back on the music in dues course, but my first impression is that this is a stunning collection that I'm going to enjoy many times over.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2005, 03:45:27 PM by Johnm »
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Offline wildcotton

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2005, 11:04:45 AM »
Speaking of Washington Phillilps, Paul Rishell does a nice version of "I Used To Have a Real Good Mother and Father" on his new CD, plays it in dropped D, and it's not too tough to figure out.

Jeff

Offline GerryC

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2005, 04:36:23 AM »
Came late to this one as someone has just given me a CD of Washington Phillips. There is a great version "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?" on Martin Simpson's CD A Closer Walk with Thee. It's played in drop D and has some great moves. I have tab for it which I would gladly share as the "book of the album" is, I believe, out of print.

Cheerily,

Gerry C
I done seen better days, but I'm puttin' up with these...

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2005, 04:47:58 AM »
A couple fo years ago I did a homemade recording with a friend (on harmonica) of A Mother's Last Words To Her Son. I played it on resonator guitar capoed at either 4 or 5 (can't just remember exactly) to give that high pitched echo-ey sound. Outfidel, if you're interested to hear it, email me and I'll send an mp3...I'm convinced, having read the dulceola/zither debate, that WP was indeed playing thezither outfit with which he's pictured and that, paradoxically, the "zither" playing on Leadbelly's commercial recordings was in fact a dulceola!
Prof S

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2005, 10:16:11 AM »
A couple fo years ago I did a homemade recording with a friend (on harmonica) of A Mother's Last Words To Her Son. I played it on resonator guitar capoed at either 4 or 5 (can't just remember exactly) to give that high pitched echo-ey sound. Outfidel, if you're interested to hear it, email me and I'll send an mp3...I'm convinced, having read the dulceola/zither debate, that WP was indeed playing thezither outfit with which he's pictured and that, paradoxically, the "zither" playing on Leadbelly's commercial recordings was in fact a dulceola!
In an issue of the late Sean Killeen's excellent Leadbelly Letter there's a mid-40's photograph of Paul Mason Howard with the instrument he used on that Capitol Leadbelly session. I seem to recall it was a zither he's pictured with...where did I put those newsletters....

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2005, 10:19:13 AM »
This link argues the dolceola case on the Leadbelly recordings. There was further reference on Andy Cohen's site (which seems to be temporarily unavailable). As you'll see, the article quotes the existence of photos of the Leadbelly session with PMH playing the dolceola. Seeing is believing...so hopefully one day these photos will resurface and be published somewhere.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Washington Phillips
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2005, 10:20:05 AM »
Oops - forgot to include the link!
http://www.minermusic.com/dolceola/leadbelly.htm

 


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