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At the peak of the great Mississippi River flood of 1993, the river in Iowa carried 435,000 cubic feet of water a second; at St Louis, after the Missouri River added it's waters, it carried 1 million cubic feet a second... In 1927... the Mississippi would be carrying in excess of three million cubic feet of water each second - J.M. Barry, Rising Tide The Great Mississippi Flood Of 1927

Author Topic: Josh White  (Read 3197 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Josh White
« on: August 08, 2003, 01:55:17 PM »
Another highlight of the workshop was Ari playing Josh White's Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed tuned down to open C# or whatever it was (and his guitar further detuning itself radically at the end of the concert with John Miller). In his "ear straining" class, he also did a bit of White's "Don't Intend to Die in Egypt Land" and "Good Gal". He mentioned that it can be pretty tough slogging through the Josh White Documents to find the gems.

I have the Columbia Roots 'n' Blues Josh White CD "Blues Singer 1932-1936". There are some good tunes on it -- "Lord, I want to Die Easy" which is another open D low tuning song, "Paul and Silas Bound In Jail" which Ari does on his own CD, "My Father is a Husbandman" which Gary Davis does better as "I Am The True Vine" but is interesting nonetheless, and some others, including a good one called "Silicosis Is Killin' Me". A lot of the stuff is repetitive though, particularly in the melody, unfortunate for a guy who had such a fine voice. So again, some tough slogging overall.

Anyone know of any good alternatives to the Documents that gather some of Josh's best prewar material, has a lot of the open-tuned stuff, including Jesus Gonna Make Up my Dying Bed?

Offline frankie

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2003, 03:09:08 PM »
A single CD of Josh White's sacred material is something I'd really like to see.  His blues singing and playing is, almost without exception, totally uninspiring.  One notable exception is Good Gal - done in a vestapol tuning tuned down to between B and C (like a lot of his sacred material).

I like Lord, I Want To Die Easy a lot - used to play it and Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin' Bed once upon a time.  I Don't Want To Die In Egypt Land is also a cool tune.  For some reason, Josh White seems to shine on this kind of material...  Unfortunately, it seems never to have been collected in one place and the Document releases that feature him stretch to something like 15 volumes.

Off the top of my head, I guess that most of the good stuff was done between 1927 and 1933, but I'm not sure how many CDs that might cover on Document - he was pretty prolific.

Offline uncle bud

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2003, 10:11:19 AM »
Hard to understand how he was so repetitive and and uninteresting yet kept putting out records to the point where one needs 15 Documents to cover it!

The vestapol stuff is very cool though. I remember you mentioning it as something to check out way back when you were at PT (glad to hear it's a possibility for next year).  Did you learn it from Ari or Ari from you? ;)

Perhaps the way to collect the sacred material is to look for compilations of various artists doing it on religious collections.

Typing that sentence made me go check my CDs and Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed is on the Columbia Roots 'n' Blues compilation "Preachin' the Gospel: Holy Blues". Doh.

(Slack, I occasionally see this CD in used stores around here and I picked it up for 10 bucks CDN. Could grab one the next time I see it if you like.)

Andrew
« Last Edit: August 10, 2003, 10:11:43 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Slack

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2003, 12:52:46 PM »
Yo Andrew!

Thanks for doing this leg work and looking after me (as you know I was looking all over the PT music store for this) - it occurred to me to check for "Preachin' the Gospel: Holy Blues" on Amazon.com  - so I just ordered a used copy in "like new" condition for $5.75.  So I'm covered, thanks!  Now if we could just talk Ari into doing a detailed break down of  'Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed' ;) - it sends chills down my spine.

cheers,
slack


Offline waxwing

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2003, 01:38:11 PM »
Hey Guys, I can tell I'm gonna like this site. Stefan G. has JGMUMDB tabbed out in vestapol in his Legends of Country Blues Guitar book/cd which I think is relatively new from Mel Bay. It's a good collection of a variety of bluesmen and the cd makes for good listening. As usual with Stefan, it's not all there,  like maybe just one chorus or a tough break, but it'll get you most of the way there. He does indicate that the recording is down a step or so.
By the way, that LG1 Ari was playing represents one of the less expensive ways of getting the ladder braced sound. LG0s and LG1s from the late '50s and early '60s were mostly ladder braced and mahogony S&B, a very bluesy combo. Can often be had in the $4-600 range or less. Replace the plastic nut and bridge/saddle for a few bucks more and your smokin'. I think they are an extension of the Gibson made Kalamazoos of the '40s. And if you can find an old DeArmond pickup.....
All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2003, 01:39:10 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline Slack

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2003, 02:00:32 PM »
Well my "like-new" (and it was) "Preachin' the Gospel: Holy Blues"  arrived yesterday - makes you wonder why they are selling an essentially new CD as fine as this one (maybe they thought they were buying gospel?)

In any case, what is most impressive is Ari's ability to emulate Josh White's slide playing with his string bending!

JohnC, it is unfortunate that the airlines banged up Ari's vintage L-00 - a much better sounding guitar, IMO, than the LG1.  He is understandably afraid now to fly with it.

cheers,
slack

Offline Bill Roggensack

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2003, 10:02:21 PM »
Slack:

Re: "Preachin ..... ", I had a hard time getting that disk a few years ago. I was told that Legacy had stopped pressing the blues reissue series, and that my best hope was to find one in stock somewhere. Which I eventually did - in Houston. I wonder if that whole series is being made available again? If so, maybe they'll re-release all the Bluebird compilations. Putting my commercial hat on, I'm guessing that Sony is anticipating an upswelling in blues interest following on the heels of a movie release (that may do for acoustic blues what "O Brother" did for bluegrass), and a massively promoted TV series on PBS falling in the Year of the Blues. So why not push the stuff for which no one will recieve roylaties? Now I'll take that hat off! It's black, and doesn't fit very well.
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline Slack

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2003, 07:34:05 AM »
FP, I bought this disk used through Amazon.com, non available new so I doubt that they are making the series available again. I have quite a number of the series on cassette, unfortunately - buying used is a way to replace those I think.

cheers,

Offline Johnm

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2003, 11:22:02 AM »
Hi all,
Like everybody else here, I guess, I much prefer Josh White's religious material to his blues, and I agree with a point John D. made a few posts back, that one of the really stellar things about the way Ari plays"Jesus Won't You make Up My Dying Bed", is his mastery of the liquid bends Josh employed in low-tuned Vestapol.
I have been trying to wrap my head around Josh's singing, because it's hard to say who his models were.  He started out backing Joe Taggert, who was very Country in his singing (and great!), and who, even at that time, Josh sounded nothing like.  I have a hunch, and there is no way of knowing at this point, that Josh was an admirer of Lonnie Johnson's singing.  They both have a slightly elocutionary, "non-threatening" quality to their singing, sort of the "Anti-Tommy McClennan" sound.  It was thinking of their versions of "Careless Love" that made me think Josh might have been influenced by Lonnie Johnson.  Of course, I may be dead wrong.  Just thinking. . . .
All Best,
John  

Offline uncle bud

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Re:Josh White
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2003, 05:01:36 PM »
John, you are not nuts. ;) When I was listening to my Josh White CD after PT this year around the time this thread started, I thought exactly the same thing. There is a blandness to their singing styles that is very similar. A shame, really, because listening to Josh White, I hear a potentially great (albeit smooth) singing voice. He just doesn't do much with it.

Andrew

Offline Johnm

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Re: Josh White
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2006, 08:24:18 AM »
Hi all,
I was listening to the "Josh White--Blues Singer 1932-1936" CD Uncle Bud speaks of in the first post in this thread, and was surprised to hear Josh launch into a Louis Armstrong impersonation on a couple of songs.  I wondered if anyone else had noticed this.  It's such a weird contrast with his normal very light way of singing.  Odd!
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Josh White
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2006, 09:10:05 AM »
Perhaps Josh did pick up some vocal mannerisms from his years with Joe Taggart and other guitar evangelists.   ;)



Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Josh White
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2006, 09:52:53 AM »
I was listening to the "Josh White--Blues Singer 1932-1936" CD Uncle Bud speaks of in the first post in this thread, and was surprised to hear Josh launch into a Louis Armstrong impersonation on a couple of songs.  I wondered if anyone else had noticed this.  It's such a weird contrast with his normal very light way of singing.  Odd!
Elijah Wald on page 40 of his book "Josh White: Society Blues" observes: "A religious number recorded in March, You Sinner You, put his Louis Armstrong impression to extended, and surprising use, adapting the jazzman's You Rascal You to the gospel market while keeping its wry humour and hip-phrasing."

I think Chris Smith in his very insightful review of this book may have taken this discussion a step further than the author...but mine is a failing memory. :)

Offline ScottN

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Re: Josh White
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2014, 01:09:27 PM »
Re: possible early influences...I just started reading Elijah Wald's Society Blues (available electronically since Dec 2013 for you Kindle fans) and a couple of pieces from it.

Josh's father was a preacher and loaded the family into a wagon every Christmas morning and took them singing around Greenville, SC

Around age 5 Josh's mother switches to a "holiness church" (from Methodist) and the new church has a much larger emphasis on singing and music beyond the European church's limitation to organ and piano.  Later Josh and 3 of his siblings form a group that go from church to church and have contests with the local church's group

Around age 7 or 8, Josh becomes a lead boy for a blind street singer named John Henry "Big Man" Arnold (before his time with Taggart). This is essentially a regular job and includes touring to other states. Josh notes that Arnold was not much of a guitar player - a frammer (strummer) who only new about 4 chords in open tuning, which he guessed he learned from him.  Josh goes on to praise however that Arnold was a powerful, believable singer, so he might have been a strong influence vocally.

Josh notes that he worked for 30-40 blind singers over the years though only specifically names about 8.  He says most of them wouldn't teach him to play guitar so he learned mostly on his own although credits Archie Jackson with helping him.  He notes admiration for Willie Walker.  Later in the book Josh is said to have learned Blood Red River from Willie's brother Joe Walker.

Wald speculates that White's singing was patterned on Leroy Carr.  He notes that Josh's single string work was reminiscent of Willie Walker.  Later he infers that Scrapper Blackwell's guitar work rubbed off on Josh after he joined Carr and Blackwell for several sides.

By the 1928 session with Taggart he is 14 years old but has essentially been working a pretty time consuming job as a lead boy for 6 to 7 years...amazing stuff...some horrible things he experienced and saw during this time but he was also a primary breadwinner (four dollars a week) for the family so didn't run away.


The book has been a very good read so far.

Thanks,
             Scott



« Last Edit: April 05, 2014, 10:19:37 PM by ScottN »

 


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