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Author Topic: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217  (Read 6345 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« on: September 06, 2009, 11:25:03 PM »
Frankie Lee Sims& Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217

CD A.  Frankie Lee Sims:  Lucy Mae Blues; Don?t Take It Out On Me: Married Woman; Wine And Gin Bounce; Boogie ?Cross The Country; Jelly Roll Baker; I?m So Glad; Long Gone; Raggedy And Dirty; Yeh, Baby!; No Good Woman; Walking Boogie; Frankie?s Blues; Cryin? Won?t Help You; I Done Talked And I Done Talked; Lucy Mae Blues (Part 2); Rhumba My Boogie; I?ll Get Along Somehow; Hawk Shuffle; Frankie Lee?s 2 O?Clock Jump; What Will Lucy Do; Misery Blues; Hey Little Girl; Walking With Frankie; My Talk Didn?t Do No Good; I Warned You Baby; She Likes To Boogie Real Low; Well Goodbye Baby; How Long
CD B. Mercy Dee Walton:  G.I. Fever; Lonesome Cabin Blues; Evil And Hanky; Travelin? Alone Blues; Homely Baby; Empty Life; Please Understand; Bird Brain Baby; Big Foot Country; Danger Zone; Roamin? Blues; Straight And Narrow; Bought Love; Old Fashioned Ways; Happy Bachelor; Pay Off; One Room Country Shack; My Woman Knows The Score; Rent Man Blues; Fall Guy; Get To Gettin; Dark Muddy Bottom; Trailing My Baby; The Main Event; Romp & Stomp Blues; Oh Oh Please; Come Back Maybellene; Have You Ever; Stubborn Woman

This new JSP release features the music of two Texas Blues musicians whose greatest period of recording activity was in the 1950s.  Each of the two musicians, Frankie Lee Sims and Mercy Dee Walton, is accorded a disc to himself with 29 titles in both cases, a very generous helping of music, indeed.  

Frankie Lee Sims, a singer and guitarist, must have had music in his genes:  evidently his father, Henry, was the brother of Lightnin? Hopkins? mother, Frances.  It is rumored (but not substantiated) that Frankie Lee?s mother, Virginia, was Texas Alexander?s sister, too.  Whatever the case may have been, Frankie Lee, who was probably born on April 30, 1917, developed into an outstanding singer and guitarist.  His career had an interesting arc--he attended college and was a school teacher for a while, at least, and also served in the Armed Services during World War II.  He died in 1970 of pneumonia, after having suffered for some time from cancer of the tongue.

The tracks of Frankie Lee included in this set come from four recording sessions, the earliest in Dallas on March 5, 1953 and the final one in Jackson, Mississippi in 1957. Even on the earliest recordings, Frankie Lee sounds a thorough professional with a sound all his own .  He plays an electric guitar on all the sessions, and his sound belies the notion that an electric guitar sound automatically disqualifies someone from playing Country Blues, for Frankie Lee?s sound was very country.  His vocal tone was notably rough and ?dirty?, his tone on the electric guitar was raw and trebly, and his phrasing strong but irregular.

Frankie Lee?s first song on the set, ?Lucy Mae Blues?, is spectacularly strong and dangerously catchy, played in dropped-D tuning, a position not often utilized by Texas players other than Mance Lipscomb.  The song is kind of a re-working of the basic lyric idea of Ishmon Bracey?s ?Saturday Blues?, and, to my taste at least, an improvement on the original, something I never expected to say.  The song appears in two additional versions on the disc, Part 2 and ?What will Lucy Do?, and it is a tribute to its infectiousness that every time it comes around it is cause for celebration.
The other particularly strong number from the earliest Dallas session is ?Married Woman?, a super-funky number played in A, standard tuning with an unusual two-line verse structure and an almost complete absence of V chords.  The instrumentation for the first session was Frankie Lee?s guitar with bass (acoustic) and a very good drummer.  They sound great.  

For Frankie Lee?s next session, recorded about 2 months later, the ensemble is joined by a pianist and harmonica player (on a couple of cuts only).  The material is all fine, but I find myself missing having Frankie Lee the sole occupant of all the solo space.  It is impressive, though, hearing how smoothly the ensemble deals with Frankie Lee?s phrasing and metric irregularities.  My favorites from the session are ?Long Gone? (?like a turkey through the corn with my long drawers on?) and ?Raggedy And Dirty?, a cover of Lil? Son Jackson, I believe.

The next session jettisoned the harmonica player and found the pianist taking a more subdued role.  Frankie Lee Sims really hit his stride at this February 5, 1954 session. He opens with ?Frankie?s Blues?, played in E, standard tuning, and it has one of the prettiest blues melodies I?ve ever heard, just gorgeous.  It?s final verse is arresting:
   I?ve got two little children, they don?t favor me(2)
   One looks like a Chinaman, the other one like a Japanese
He follows with ?Cryin? Won?t Help You?, an outstanding blues in A, standard tuning with a chilling concluding threat verse.  Next up is ?I Done Talked And I Done Talked?, in E standard, with one of the most superlative blues vocals I have ever heard, an amazing swooping line that Frankie Lee pulls off with aplomb, so beautiful and soulful. ?Lucy Mae Blues? (Part 2) continues the momentum.  ?Rhumba My Boogie? is kind of a shocker, for Frankie Lee and the band prove to be completely comfortable working in this very different groove, and his personalized ?Spanglish? makes for a very entertaining version of ?South of the Border?.  ?I?ll Get Along Somehow? is a slightly long 8-bar blues in the ?Worried Life Blues? mold.  

The remainder of the disc is all very strong, but in his last session, he was recorded with a much larger band, including tenor sax and piano, and while the players were fine, they effaced the more distinctive aspects of his sound.  I think Frankie Lee Sims? February 5, 1954 recording session in Dallas must be one of the finest of all post-war Blues recording sessions.

Mercy Dee Walton was born on August 30, 1915 to a farming family.  He seems to have determined fairly early on that the farming life was not his preference as a vocation, and made his way to California as a young man.  All of the recordings here, from the earliest in Fresno in 1949 to the final one in Los Angeles in 1955 were made in California.  

Mercy Dee Walton?s music could hardly present a more extreme contrast to that of Frankie Lee Sims.  Where Frankie Lee?s vocal sound was rough, Mercy Dee?s was smo-o-o-o-th and oh-so-cool.  I don?t normally gravitate towards smooth blues singers--Lonnie Johnson, Josh White and the young Bill Broonzy have never been my favorites (yes, I know I?m nuts), but Mercy Dee made an instant convert of me.  He really had a fantastic vocal instrument, in a class with Nat King Cole.  He was also an excellent pianist, with great tone, a rich chordal sense, and huge hands, I expect.  You can hear him walking open tenths (an octave and a third) in the bass quite a lot.
Mercy Dee?s program opens with ?G.I. Fever?, a tune with a sneaky scat passage.  It and the next three numbers are all played by Mercy Dee solo, and showcase his singing and playing equally.  

For his next session, Mercy Dee was joined by bass, drums and an electric guitarist who occasionally stomps all over his vocals.  Mercy Dee was an excellent writer of blues and his song-writing abounds with memorable lines, as in ?Homely Baby?:
   Yes, I?m going to play true so these blues, they?ll let me be
   Get myself a homely baby with a face like a chimpanee
Or in ?Bird Brain Baby?:
   I?ve got a bird brain baby, she got a heart the size of a mustard seed
This session is strong, but Mercy Dee essentially sings the same song over and over again with different lyrics.  In fairness, his singing is so strong, as is his piano playing and lyric invention, that what one might expect to pall pretty quickly continues to entertain.  And of course these recordings were all singles and were never envisioned to be heard in a twenty-nine song program.  

In a later session, Mercy Dee is joined by his wife, Thelma ?Lady Fox? Walton, for ?Rent Man Blues?, a skit song somewhat reminiscent of those that J.T. Smith did with Dessa Foster.  Lady Fox more than holds her own vocally with Mercy Dee.  On ?Get to Gettin??, a song suggesting an end to romance, the two join for the chorus:
   Get to gettin?, move it on out of my face
   When it comes to joint excitement, there?s one million other ways
On ?Dark Muddy Bottom? and ?Have You Ever?, you get a strong indication of how disenchanted Mercy Dee was with rural life.  Basically, he?s out of there.  His later tracks find him being moved in a Rock & Roll direction, even covering Chuck Berry?s ?Maybelline?.

Mercy Dee was to record two albums for Chris Strachwitz in 1961, but he died of a cerebral hemmorhage in 1962, and so lost any opportunity for a come-back or being heard by blues fans of the ?60s and ?70s.  He was an exceptionally smooth singer and player and outstanding blues song-writer, a skill that actually is very rarely encountered.

JSP is to be commended for making this music available.  Both of the discs that comprise the set are terrific and the contrast between Frankie Lee Sims? rough country sound and Mercy Dee Walton?s urbane style makes them excellent foils for each other. I think this is one of JSP?s finest re-issue sets, and for me, at least, Frankie Lee Sims is a spectacular find whose music I look forward to listening to for many years to come.
all best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 13, 2009, 02:38:52 PM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2009, 01:47:05 AM »
JSP is to be commended for making this music available.  Both of the discs that comprise the set are terrific and the contrast between Frankie Lee Sims? rough country sound and Mercy Dee Walton?s urbane style makes them excellent foils for each other.  I think this is one of JSP?s finest re-issue sets, and for me, at least, Frankie Lee Sims is a spectacular find whose music I look forward to listening to for many years to come.
Well said that man! That's what I call an ideal coupling and hopefully JohnM's approbation will bring their individual talents to wider notice. Well done JSP.

Perhaps the redouble Stefan Wirz can be encouraged to consider a Frankie Lee Sims discography to accompanying his excellent Mercy Dee effort. http://www.wirz.de/music/waltofrm.htm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2009, 03:40:19 AM »
The other particularly strong number from the earliest Dallas session is ?Married Woman?, a super-funky number played in A, standard tuning with an unusual two-line verse structure and an almost complete absence of V chords. 
It might amuse you to know that in 1972 a British band going by the colourful name of the Flamin? Groovies recorded "Married Woman" with some measure of success. Their manager/producer was at one time a collector of blues 45s.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2009, 08:47:05 AM »
John:

Thanks for the thorough description and review--and of course for bringing this new release to our attention. I'm definitely going to place this one near the top of my wish list as per your recommendation.

And thanks for the comment re: Country Blues played on the electric guitar. This is certainly a topic that merits further thought and consideration, but this is another thread for another day.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2009, 12:20:08 PM »
It ought to be mentioned that Mercy Dee also recorded at least one excellent LP for Prestige -Bluesville and that he seems, to my ears at least, to have been the chief model and inspiration for the also, so cool I'm fallin' off my stool,
Mose Allison who made Mercy's "One room Country Shack (eleven foot cotton sack)" his signature song for a while.
Thanks for the excellent and informative review John.  I love it when we fossils can still enthuse about a new discovery.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2009, 12:40:14 PM »
  I love it when we fossils can still enthuse about a new discovery.
Speak for yourself.  ;D On a serious note if you go to Stefan's discography and scroll down to the end he's made available an ancient Mercy Dee feature written by Bob Groom who back then was doing his best to drum up interest in Mr. Walton's the lyrical merits.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2009, 12:51:33 PM »
Thanks for the responses, guys.  This really is a terrific set, and as is par for the course with JSP, is very nicely affordable.  Re the Bluesville release you mention, O'Muck, it was recorded by Chris Strachwitz.  I forget sometimes that a number of the West Coast releases that came out on Prestige-Bluesville, such as the two K.C. Douglas albums and the Sidney Maiden album were recorded by Chris Strachwitz right about the time he started Arhoolie.  Re Mercy Dee's lyrical merits, I quite agree with you and Bob Groom, Bunker Hill, that his skills in that area were exceptional.  I should say, too, for any of you out there who work in larger ensembles, a number of Frankie Lee Sims' numbers would make terrific band numbers.
On a related note, the Georgia musician Cecil Barfield covered "Lucy Mae" very ably on the George Mitchell Collection, but at the time I heard Cecil's version I had not yet heard Frankie Lee's version and so didn't realize I was listening to a cover.  I'm coming to realize that since my listening to Post-War blues is so much more sketchy than my listening to the earlier stuff, I often don't recognize covers as being such when played by Country Blues players of the '60s and '70s.  I guess you can never listen enough or too much.
all best,
Johnm

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2009, 01:31:15 PM »
Seem to remember that Buddy Guy did a recent (couple of years ago) acoustic cover of Lucy Mae blues. The original's a show stopper of a tune, with that great riff on the bass strings in dropped D.

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2009, 08:22:42 PM »
I have, somewhere, a Frankie Lee Sims record that has 20 of these tunes, including all the highlights that John listed.
Track listing from my iTunes database:
Lucy Mae Blues; Don?t Take It Out On Me: Married Woman; Wine And Gin Bounce; Boogie ?Cross The Country; Jelly Roll Baker; I?m So Glad; Long Gone; Raggedy And Dirty; Yeh, Baby!; No Good Woman; Walking Boogie; Frankie?s Blues; Cryin? Won?t Help You; I Done Talked And I Done Talked; Lucy Mae Blues (Part 2); Rhumba My Boogie; I?ll Get Along Somehow; Hawk Shuffle; Frankie Lee?s 2 O?Clock Jump;
Which is exactly the same as the JSP record, minus the last 9 songs.
I unfortunately cannot find my CD.  It is most certainly the one listed here http://www.mp3.com/artist/frankie-lee-sims/songs/?tag=tabs;songs&om_act=convert&om_clk=arttabs "Lucy Mae Blues" but there is no label info there!

I'm not as fond of this as John; I get pretty tired of Sim's voice and guitar tone, but agree that Lucy Mae Blues shold be a classic, and John did right by his choices of the highlights.
Dave

Offline dj

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2009, 03:38:31 AM »
Quote
It is most certainly the one listed here..., "Lucy Mae Blues" but there is no label info there!

Dave,

The CD is Lucy Mae Blues.  It was released in the US by Fantasy on the Specialty label, and in the UK by Ace.  It contains all, or at least almost all (I need a copy of BG&R and Fancourt/McGrath here at work!) of Sims' Specialty recordings, but none of the later recordings for other labels that round out the JSP disc.

I believe that prior to recording for Specialty, Sims recorded 4 sides for Bluebonnet, which are not included on the JSP disc.  Does anyone know why?  Are they perhaps on some other JSP collection?

Thanks for bringing this set up, John.  All I have by either artist are the Specialty CDs that came out in the early 1990s.  This set looks like a worthwhile addition to those CDs.  
« Last Edit: September 08, 2009, 12:48:14 PM by dj »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2009, 09:18:26 AM »
I believe that prior to recording for Specialty, Sims recorded 4 sides for Bluebonnet, which are not included on the JSP disc.  Does anyone know why?  Are they perhaps on some other JSP collection?
Well surmised that man.

They are on JSP 7790 Lightnin' Hopkins Volume 2 (2007). The fourth CD and contains Soldier Boy Houston, J.D. Edwards, Ernest Lewis and FLS. a set which I think has been the subject of discussion here.

Offline dj

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2009, 09:52:47 AM »
Thanks for the info, BH.  Not being a really big Lightnin' Hopkins fan, I'd never looked closely at that set.  I guess I should have.

(And as for me not being a really big Lightnin' fan, don't worry, I'm working on it.  A lot of those Texans have given me trouble.  But I've finally seen the light on Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly, and I expect I'll eventually "get" Hopkins, too.)

Offline Stefan Wirz

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2009, 10:39:20 AM »
Perhaps the redouble Stefan Wirz can be encouraged to consider a Frankie Lee Sims discography to accompanying his excellent Mercy Dee effort. http://www.wirz.de/music/waltofrm.htm
"redouble" ?!? - too difficult a term for this German boy  >:D
... and - since there's already this exhaustive FLS discography by Pete Hoppula - there wouldn't be much use (except maybe for some additional pics) of a second one, wouldn't it ?
Stefan

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2009, 11:37:37 AM »
Perhaps the redouble Stefan Wirz can be encouraged to consider a Frankie Lee Sims discography to accompanying his excellent Mercy Dee effort. http://www.wirz.de/music/waltofrm.htm
"redouble" ?!? - too difficult a term for this German boy  >:D
... and - since there's already this exhaustive FLS discography by Pete Hoppula - there wouldn't be much use (except maybe for some additional pics) of a second one, wouldn't it ?
Stefan
Sorry Stefan "redoubtable" was the word I thought I typed but obviously not. :( A better usage would be "formidable".

Here's the link to the discography Stefan mentions http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/frankielee.htm Looks rather "bleak" to me, but a nice piece of work all the same.


« Last Edit: September 08, 2009, 11:40:01 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Frankie Lee Sims & Mercy Dee Walton--JSP4217
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2009, 01:22:54 PM »
It's worth noting that Frankie Lee Sims also plays lead guitar on fellow-Texan Smoky Hogg's rare Bullet release from 1947 ("Hard Times"/"Goin' Back Home") on which Mr. Hogg actually plays piano.

Sims also recorded an album's worth of material for the Fire label in New York in 1960. Unissued at the time, it is now available as "Walking with Frankie" on the AIM label. Decidedly less polished -- and less successful -- than his earlier recordings, they nevertheless possess a gritty, raw, and "live" feel that I enjoy, even though they fail to live up to his previous work. (They also include another version of "Lucy Mae Blues"!)

All of Frankie's Ace/Vin recordings can be found in excellent fidelity on "4th & Beale and Further South" on the Westside label. This may be out of print, which is unfortunate as it also includes all of Mercy Baby's Ace recordings with Frankie on guitar (as well as Joe Hill Louis's unissued Ace sides -- talk about maxing out an amp!).
« Last Edit: September 08, 2009, 08:03:59 PM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

 


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