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Author Topic: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310  (Read 5921 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« on: October 27, 2009, 07:32:07 PM »
PROGRAM:  So Sweet, So Sweet; Married Woman Blues; The Guy With The .45; No Time At All; My Baby's Gone; Weeping Willow; Walking; 'Fore Day Creep; Jitterbug Rag; Some Cold Rainy Day; Screaming and Crying; Open Nose; Dark Shadows; Superstitious; 180 Days

This  album of Tarheel Slim (Alden Bunn) was recorded in the early 1970s and re-released in 1995 on CD through a licensing agreement.  I have Phil Thorne to thank for bringing it to my attention and supplying me with a copy at the EBA Blues Week in 2008.  I've been listening to it a lot lately, and find that the qualities of Slim's music wear particularly well, and especially become telling with repeated listening.
Slim was born Alden Bunn in North Carolina in 1924, which places him squarely in the in-between generation of East Coast blues players that included such musicians as Frank Hovington, John Jackson, John Cephas and John Dee Holman.  Like most blues players of that generation, Slim was profoundly influenced by the music and recordings of Blind Boy Fuller.  Indeed, Fuller's recorded repertoire contributed heavily to the program here, with four titles, "So Sweet, So Sweet", "Married Woman Blues", "Walking", and "Jitterbug Rag" coming from Fuller, though the versions of the songs Slim presents are all filtered through his own sensibility, style and skills set.
In some ways, Tarheel Slim is reminiscent of Doug Quattlebaum.  Both players are from the Carolinas, though Quattlebaum hailed from South Carolina and Slim from North Carolina, both players were superlative singers with extensive experience singing religious music in choirs and gospel quartets, and both players had a special affinity for playing in Vestapol (in Quattlebaum's case, it was the only key in which he played).  Slim was far the more versatile player, though, and we can be thankful that the program here reflected the breadth of his musical experiences, interests and abilities, and allowed him to range throughout his varied repertoire without contrivedly being forced in a Piedmont Blues direction to the exclusion of the other types of music he made.
The program opens with "So Sweet, So Sweet", played in Vestapol, and first recorded by Josh White, though popularized by Blind Boy Fuller.  Slim's beautiful relaxed time and exceptionally pretty tone on a National (!) are showcased here, as well as his stellar singing, which to my ears at least, pays the most sincere homage to the sweetness of the woman in question that I have ever heard offered in a rendition of this number.  "Married Woman Blues", an 8-bar blues in A, standard tuning via Blind Boy Fuller follows.  For "The Guy With The .45", Slim switches to the electric guitar and is joined by Big Chief Ellis on piano.  The vocal here is particularly strong and at a couple of points you could swear you hear the microphone's diaphragm shuddering and begging for mercy.  I like the song's story, too; how many blues stories are told by the person being threatened by a bad-ass rather than by the bad-ass himself?
The title cut, "No Time At All", is a pretty original instrumental in Vestapol, working much of the same musical territory as Libba Cotten's "Vestapol".  "My Baby's Gone", an original song played by Slim in B position in standard tuning is a real one-off.  It's a  more modern sound, and from what I can discern, is all Slim's own.  His voicing of the IV chord here, an E9, is worth noting:  0-X-2-1-3-2.  "Weeping Willow" is, I believe, a Tarheel Slim original as well.  It has a striking, dirge-like sound in A minor, and employs a chordal vocabulary far outside that normally encountered on Blues recordings.  For his I chord, Slim rocks between A minor and A minor#5:  X-0-3-2-1-X.  Slim substitutes a flat VI chord, F for the IV chord and rocks between F and F6:  
1-X-3-2-3-X, and for his V chord, he rocks between E and E add flat9: 0-X-3-1-0-X.  The sounds of these chords is distinguished enough that Slim's simple strumming serves to showcase the eerie harmony while he adds squealing harp off a rack to the mix and his impassioned vocal.  The combined effect is intense.
"Walking", Slim's version of Fuller's "Walking My Troubles Away", for which he is joined by Big Chief Ellis again comes next, followed by "'Fore Day Creep", a beautifully simple original number in Vestapol.  "Jitterbug Rag" follows, done as an instrumental without the verses that Blind Boy Fuller sang.  Slim plays "Some Cold Rainy Day" in Vestapol with a slide, and adds an 8-bar bridge to the song that I've never heard done before and that rounds out the song's structure nicely.  Big Chief again joins Slim for "Screaming and Crying", not only with the piano but with his voice as well, and the duet vocal sound they achieve is a welcome addition to the program.  "Open Nose", an original, has an unforgettable signature line:  "You've got my nose wide open, I don't know whether I'm coming or going", that refers to the condition of a woozy boxer in the corner between rounds.  "Dark Shadows", for which Slim is joined by Big Chief and Dan Del Santo on rhythm guitar, employs some of the same harmonic ideas as "Weeping Willow"  and bears some resemblance to the B.B. King hit "The Thrill Is Gone".  Slim is joined by Dan Del Santo again for "Superstitious" (not the Stevie Wonder song), for which he plays electric slide backed by Dan's solid rhythm playing on acoustic guitar.  The program concludes with my favorite number in the program, "180 Days", another Tarheel Slim original in Vestapol with beautiful picking and a very strong vocal.
The aspects of Tarheel Slim's music that created the strongest impression for me after repeated listening to this disc are the strength and dynamism of his singing and the wonderful relaxed quality of his time at medium and slow-medium tempos.  Tarheel Slim appears to have been very much a man of his era, and it's heartening to hear the extent to which his music not only looked backwards, to the music he grew up hearing, but forwards, as well, to an expanded chordal sound which has not yet been fully adopted by present-day blues players.  He had a lot to offer.
All best,
Johnm          
« Last Edit: October 27, 2009, 07:34:40 PM by Johnm »

Offline oddenda

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2009, 09:20:49 PM »
John -

          Correction - "Dark Shadows" is all Slim, thanks to over-dubbing. It's my 1939 National you hear... mellow sucker, ain't it.

Peter B.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2009, 09:35:28 PM »
Peter,
I don't know the extent to which the player or the instrument is to be commended (certainly both), but Tarheel Slim had the best sound on a National of any guitarist I've ever heard.  He had a great touch.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2009, 02:08:09 AM »
Not that it matters a jot, John, but you've me to thank for the album as I gave it to Phil, because I wasn't playing it much. Perhaps I should have kept it!  Well, maybe not, I'm glad that you and Phil are enjoying the music. :)
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
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Offline blueshome

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2009, 03:02:40 AM »
Yep, it's still in rotation on my cd player along with all the other wonderful Trix albums - Thanks Peter.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2009, 02:03:26 PM »
Thanks indeed for passing the CD along to Phil, Michael.  Otherwise I might never have heard it, which would have been a shame.
All best,
Johnm

Offline oddenda

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2009, 06:53:17 PM »
John -

          Except for Willie Trice or Dan DelSanto, all Trix recordings of a National are on my '39, a VERY mellow-sounding instrument. I am not sure from this distance in time, but Slim may not have used picks on those recordings. Slim had fun overdubbing on himself - he plays guitars (x2), piano, harmonica (on rack) thanks to the magic of my ReVox 4-track. As happened, he got throat cancer (all the good singers seemed to), but he was a GREAT singer: he backed off on those "hard" sections so's not to go into the "red". Glad that you like his work - Tarheel Slim was a complete gentleman and a good friend.

Others -

          Glad that you all like "my" stuff - I was priviledged to know such as he. Remember, any questions cheerfully answered.

Peter B.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 10:46:05 PM by oddenda »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2009, 08:05:53 PM »
Great review. Can't wait to hear the record. Thanks to thems what made it and thems what wrote about it.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline RobBob

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2009, 09:59:12 AM »
So, where do we get this CD?  I have a couple Trix CD's but only seem to find them used.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2009, 12:24:37 PM »
Hi Bob,
As far as I know, the Tarheel Slim "No Time At All" CD is not currently being manufactured, so you'll probably have to search out a used copy.  Not Rev. Gary Davis, a long-time Weenie, has shown an amazing ability to discover Trix re-issue CDs, and he may be able to point you in a promising direction.
All best,
Johnm

Offline RobBob

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2009, 12:46:36 PM »
Thanks John.  I will contact him.

Bob

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2009, 03:03:39 PM »
Several on Amazon- used and new,  though the "new" ones are pretty expensive.

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2009, 10:45:52 PM »
I've got a Tarheel Slim album on some cheapo Canadian label I think - Collectables maybe?  I'm too lazy to get up and look for it, but found it on my ipod.  It is Tarheel Slim and Little Anne, the Red Robin and Fire Years, doing totally electric stuff, full band.  Late 50's or early 60's probably.  The best track is Number Nine Train, a totally raucous and rocking tune.  His name is listed as Allen Bunn on a couple tracks of this CD.  Little Ann is a undistinguished singer, unfortunately, but Slim is great.

By the way, my brother Al had and may still have an unusual instrumental 45 of Slim playing an open tuning piece that I once learned and unfortunately have since forgotten.  Probably in G tuning (is that Vestapol?  I never think tuning other than named as Open D, Open G, D minor, etc.)
John, this tune - name unknown - is definitely worth asking Al about.  I used to have it on cassette myself but lost it I think in a car break-in many years ago.

I also have always thought that it is Slim playing guitar on the little known tune I'm A Little Mixed Up, by Betty James, available on a Chess compilation, The Blues Collection Vol 4 (I think)

Dave

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2009, 06:37:40 AM »
I have "Number Nine Train" (with "Wildcat Tamer" on the flip) as a Fury-label 78. Dave is right -- it's a rockin' blast of electric guitar mayhem with wide-open vocals. Really, it's one of the best rockabilly tunes you'll hear. (Dale Hawkins did a great, unreleased cover of it back in the late 50s for Checker.) That Tarheel Slim sure was versatile!
Jeff

Offline oddenda

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Re: Tarheel Slim--No Time At All, Trix 3310
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2009, 10:50:34 PM »
Folks -

          The lead guitar on Wildcat Tamer/Number 9 Train is by Jimmy Spruell, one of the core "New York Fendermen" of that city's studios. Slim also did them at the Chapel Hill concerts; on a Flyright LP back in the day... he took the solo quite nicely, thank you very much! One GREAT singer. I had planned on taking him into a studio with a band (Ahmet Ertegun "paid' me for the Blues Originals series production by giving me free studio time), but mortality (his) got in the way. One cannot do everything, no matter how hard one tries.

Peter B.

 


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