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A musicianer, he's not got as many men friends as he has women, and sometimes the only men friends he has is other musicianers, or a man who ain't got no woman - David Honeyboy Edwards, from his bio

Author Topic: Blind Joe help?  (Read 1529 times)

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Offline Prof Scratchy

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Blind Joe help?
« on: September 26, 2009, 08:31:46 AM »
Listening online a few months ago to Jeff Harris's wonderful Big Road Blues show, I tuned in to the end of a segment where he played a track "When I Lie Down Last Night'' by Blind Joe. What I recollect from Jeff's commentary on the track, this had been  a Lomax field recording, captured (if that's the right word?) during a prison visit. The track sounded like a speeded up version of Blake's 'Georgia Bound', and I was amazed by just how much like Blake the guitar part sounded, down to the tone of the instrument itself. And I wondered, who was Blind Joe, how had he come to be in prison, and how had he come by a guitar style and sound so close to Blind Blake's, only  a couple of years or so after Blake had ceased recording? Now, I'm assuming that Blind Joe, prior to being incarcerated, had been a big Blake fan, had purchased his 78s and had learned the style note for note...? Or osmosed it? Whatever the case may have been, I find Blind Joe's story fascinating and mysterious. More mysteriously still, I've since been trying to track down the track, so I could buy it.
Amazon has it as having been recorded by Blind Joe Taggart. But this sounded nothing like Blind Joe Taggart (not, I'd have to admit, that I've listened to BJT a lot). When you're directed to Amazon's BJT page, the track isn't there. I've since found that the track is on the Deep River of Song series, but it doesn't seem to be available for download in the UK.
So - is there anyone who can help with shedding some light on this track and the story behind it? Also, where I might put my hands on it (preferably without shelling out for the entire album, nice though it probably is)? And what are people's theories on how someone other than Blake got to be sounding so much like Blake, so close to the date of his disappearance and probable death?

Offline dj

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2009, 08:42:23 AM »
"When I Lie Down Last Night" and "In Trouble" were recorded at the State Penitentiary in Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday, December 19, 1934.

Looking at Stefan Wirz's site, I see the two songs were issued on Travelin' Man CD 08, "Red River Blues, 1934 - 1943".

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2009, 08:56:00 AM »
Blind Joe's two songs were first released on Red River Runs, vol.7 in the Flyright Library of Congress series (SDM 259, 1979). Each LP had copious booklets written and researched by either John Cowley or Tony Russell. I'll see what is said about Blind Joe, that is if somebody doesn't get to it before me from a more modern source.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2009, 08:57:44 AM »
I have the Travelin' Man CD. Ray Templeton's notes say only the following:

"The  influence of popular recording artists from these states, such as Blind Blake and Buddy Moss, can be heard in the recordings here. The like-named Blind Joe not only picked his guitar in a style reminiscent of Blake, but he showed a comparable melodic approach as well, at least on the evidence of his only two recorded songs."

Anyone have Bruce Bastin's book handy? Mine is AWOL

[edit: both tracks are excellent, his guitar playing is, as stated, a dead ringer for Blake. Stop-time used throughout When I lie Down, not just for variation, the song revolves around it. In Trouble is very bluesy Blake style, good lyrics]
« Last Edit: September 26, 2009, 09:12:27 AM by Rivers »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2009, 09:36:33 AM »
The booklet was actually written by Bruce Bastin based on research by John Cowley. On page three Bastin writes:

"The North Carolina State guide of 1939 mentions that the Central Prison in Raleigh permitted 'no visitors except prisoners' relatives'. Nevertheless, recordings bed been made in the penitentiary some five years earlier by John Lomax, including two superb numbers by one, Blind Joe. Unfortunately, nothing else is known for certain about this artist. Unlike the Texas Department of Correction, which was extremely helpful in supplying details of past inmates, no reply has yet been forthcoming from the state authorities in North Carolina. Lomax calls him 'Blind Tom' but, urged by the singer, he renames him 'Blind Joe' and this is all the contemporary information we have. Bengt Olsen, interviewing a retired prison warder, who was at the state penitentiary at the same time as Blind Joe, elicited information that the man's real name was Harry Davis. Whatever his name might have been, his guitar style is completely within the Piedmont tradition of east coast guitarists. When I Lie Down is perhaps the nearest approach in the guitar style of Blind Blake ever achieved by another artist. In Trouble is a magnificent example of a personal blues, relating with graphic detail the background to his prison sentence."

He then quotes the song followed by this observation:

"but at this point the song is stopped and we never reach the end of his story. It is interesting that a number of the singers recorded on the same trip, such as Jesse Wadley, and Reece Crenshaw, also sang of the reasons for their presence in jail. If this was a piece of fieldwork policy, it was inspired. Usually there appears to have been a conscious prompting of artists to sing specific ballads; John Henry, Stagolee and Frankie And Johnny being good examples. Given that this was extremely valuable in documenting the variety and widespread nature of certain black ballads, specific prompting for material of a very personal nature to 1934 gave rise to some of the
finest blues to be recorded in the south-eastern states."

Well folk there you have it, make of it what you will.  :)

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2009, 09:46:05 AM »
Thanks to all for the insghts gained so far. My, you're quick! Only posted the question an hour or so ago. I'm now more intrigued (and frustrated) than ever - knowing now that there's another fine Blind Joe track out there to be heard, and I can't find a download site for either song! Still, travelling in anticipation can often be as good as arriving... ;)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2009, 10:22:23 AM »
Listening to the preview of "When I Lie Down Last Night" at amazon.com from the Deep River of Song: Virginia and the Piedmont album, the second name that came to mind after Blind Blake was Kid Prince Moore. Moore definitely sounds heavily influenced by Blake at times (c.f. Mississippi Water). Vocally, Blind Joe is a bit more nasal, though the recording is much worse, and it depends what Moore songs you compare to, as he also could get pretty nasal and in the upper register.

Was "In Trouble" also on a Deep River of Song disc? I can't seem to find it to preview.

« Last Edit: September 26, 2009, 10:29:40 AM by uncle bud »


Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2009, 11:06:11 AM »
Rivers - you're working hard today!
Prof S
PS: the tracks have now arrived in Scotland from a certain fluvial source

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2009, 11:12:40 AM »
That was an interesting read. Fancy being banged up for bigamy? I was struggling to think what heinous crime a blind person would have been incarcerated for in these times?

Offline Matt

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 09:25:20 AM »
Hi Y'all,

For the past several years I've been researching the Raleigh Prison recordings, does anyone on here know of any sources about those 3 days that John And Allan Lomax and Ledbelly came and recorded? Aside from the recordings of which I own a copy of, and this passage from a "Collection of Negro folk songs", I've found nothing else. Here's the line from negro folk songs:

?We found more songs in Atlanta, still more in Milledgeville, with Lead Belly again acting as first assistant, since Alan had fallen ill with influenza. Always the nimble fingering of his guitar and his singing helped to bring out the best talent among the convicts... North Carolina, and its penitentiary at Raleigh, held us for three days. We then moved on to Washington, arriving on Christmas Eve.?





Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 10:11:11 AM »
Hi all,
Could someone who has the Blind Joe track post an .mp3 of it for educational purposes?  I've never heard it and am tantalized by the descriptions I've heard of his playing.  Thanks.
All best,
Johnm

Offline mr mando

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 11:10:45 AM »
Hi Johnm,
here are the two tracks as low quality mp3s.

Hi Matt,
the discography section in the booklet of TM CD 08 says that the Blind Joe tracks were recorded on December 19 1934. The booklet included with FLY LP 259 mentiones the books "Our singing Country, 1941" and "Adventures of a Ballad Hunter, 1947" by J. and A. Lomax in the bibliography, maybe there's more Information in there. On the record sleeve, the same recording date is given as in the CD booklet. Matrix numbers were AFS 268 B1 for When I Lie Down Last Night and AFS 269 B for In Trouble. It might also be interesting to note that on December 11 and December 15 there were recording sessions taking place in two different Georgia prisons. Hope this helps.

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Blind Joe help?
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 11:50:30 AM »
Thanks so much for making those tunes available, Mr. Mando, I really appreciate it!  Blind Joe's playing did indeed have a very strong Blake influence (or perhaps they were both influenced by someone else), but to me his time sounds a bit choppier than Blake's.  He also tends to stop his bass under his runs, where Blake often kept his bass going underneath his runs.  I've never heard stop time played the way Blind Joe does it on "When I Lie Down", that's fascinating.  An unusual feature of "My Trouble" is the way he goes to the A7 chord in the key of C (a VI7 chord) in the 6th bar of the song's 12-bar form, which is otherwise relatively conventional.

Based only on this very small sample, he really was a very accomplished player, and it would be so nice to have more tunes by him, to see if he played in other keys and positions as well.  The thought of having one's musical legacy confined to two tracks barely two minutes long apiece is sobering.  Thanks again, Mister Mando, for posting the .mp3s of Blind Joe's songs.  I've been wanting to hear them for years.
All best,
Johnm 

 


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