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Author Topic: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016  (Read 1085 times)

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Offline Johnm

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"It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« on: November 08, 2019, 03:22:43 PM »
"It Must Have Been The Devil--Mississippi Country Blues by Jack Owens & Bud Spires"--Testament Records TCD5016 1) Can't See, Baby 2) Jack Ain't Had No Water 3) Cherry Ball 4) Nothin' But Notes 5) Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl 6) I Love My Baby 7) Catfish Blues 8 ) It Must Have Been The Devil 9) Hard Times 10) Ain't No Lovin', Ain't No Gettin' Along 11) I Won't Be Bad No More

This recording, made by Professor David Evans, documents the music made by Jack Owens, working solo and with harmonica player Bud Spires, on September 7, 1970 in Bentonia, Mississippi.  Of the tracks included on the CD release, five were not included on the original LP release on Testament--Cherry Ball, I Love My Baby, Hard Times, Ain't No Lovin', Ain't No Gettin' Along and I Won't be Bad No More, and these previously unreleased tracks are in no way inferior to the tracks on the LP release, so it is really a good deal to get the CD.

I picked up this CD very recently, never having purchased or heard the LP version of the program previously.  The CD has proven to be a real eye-opener.  My only previous experience of Jack Owens and Bud Spires' music was from an early year of the Port Townsend Workshop, maybe 1996 or 1997, when the two of them were on staff.  Jack's ability to play was much reduced at that point, not surprisingly, for he was right around ninety years old, and Bud's playing was not notably impressive.  Hearing the recordings on this CD, from 1970, really came as a shock, for I had no idea how spectacular a guitarist Jack had been.  Make no mistake: Jack Owens was anything but a "Skip James Lite".  His playing throughout the program is extremely dynamic, inventive and splashy, with exciting gestures.  It is playing that is also more varied than Skip James' playing.  Over the course of the program Jack has a preponderance of pieces played in cross-note tuning, but also has a piece in E position, standard tuning, Catfish Blues, a piece in Spanish tuning with the sixth string tuned down to C, I Love My Baby, a piece in A position in dropped-D tuning, Ain't No Lovin', Ain't No Gettin' Along, and a slide piece in Vestapol, I Won't Be Bad No More.  Of the pieces in cross-note tuning on the disc, three titles, Cherry Ball, It Must Have Been The Devil (Devil Got My Woman), and Hard Times are songs that Skip James also recorded, but Jack Owens' versions of the songs are by no means reproductions of Skip's arrangements of them.  In what respects do Jack's versions and Skip's versions of the same songs differ?  I could hear two main differences:  First, Jack's playing is much more improvisatory than Skip's playing, which, particularly in Skip's Paramount Recordings, sounds to have been set piece arrangements.  Secondly, Skip favored an underlying triplet feel, subdividing his beats into three, whereas Jack favored a duple feel, such that where Skip might play a three-note run as a triplet, Jack would play the same run as two sixteenth notes followed by a concluding eighth note.

The program opens with a bang in a very exciting rendition of I Can't See, Baby, in which Jack employs a seemingly unlimited stream of ideas and licks over the course of the rendition.  Jack's sang full voice, not falsetto, and his voice had a rough, very expressive tone.  The second tune, Jack Ain't Had No Water, is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in the Country Blues, really in a class with Henry Spaulding's Cairo Blues, to my taste, at least.  Jack has a shortish instrumental named for his spoken interjection upon completion of the tune, "Nothing But Notes".  The piece is really spectacular and doesn't sound like anything I've heard other players do in cross-note tuning and it is particularly impressive because Jack seems to just toss it off.  I Love My Baby, in Spanish tuning with a low C sixth string, is another terrific number, and to players paying attention I think it will point the way to utilizing that tuning and mining it for themselves.  David Evans is to be congratulated for getting really long takes of Catfish Blues, over seven minutes, and It Must Have Been The Devil, over nine minutes, for these long tracks continue to change and evolve for the full time they're in progress.

Throughout the program, Bud Spires' playing on the tracks where he joins Jack suits the music really well and does not overpower the guitar or drown it out, as can sometimes happen.  Bud's playing is primarily chordal in approach, and it often closely tracks Jack's vocal in a way that works really well.

This CD is still available, though for how long there is no way of knowing.  I strongly suggest you pick it up if you don't already have it.  The Testament Records catalog is currently being put out by Hightone Records of Oakland, California.  They have my thanks for continuing to put this music out--I can't imagine there are that many people buying it.  Why not be one of those people?

All best,
Johnm

     
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 08:53:03 AM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 12:57:05 AM »
When I bought that cd maybe 15 plus years ago I must have listened to it about 20 times in succession ecause I found it so fascinating. It really seems to transport you to be in the room with the players.

Offline Johnm

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2019, 05:21:15 AM »
I know what you mean, Phil.  The recording has such a live feel, doesn't it?  There are lots of spoken asides from both players.  It really succeeds as a record of those people and that place on that day.

Offline eric

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2019, 09:50:54 AM »
I'm not coming up with anything searching for Hightone or Testament Records.  Anyone have a link?
--
Eric

Offline Johnm

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2019, 10:20:44 AM »
Hi Eric,
I was ordered it from Amazon.  The CD itself lists the mailing address for Hightone records as:
   HIGHTONE RECORDS
   220 4th Street, #101
   Oakland, CA 94607
and says to write for a free catalog.  You could probably order it directly from HIGHTONE if you prefer not to give Amazon the business.
All best,
John

Offline Stuart

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2019, 10:32:42 AM »
Hi Eric:

It appears that the Testament Records catalog was acquired by HighTone which in turn sold the catalog to Shout Factory which sold it to Concord.

It looks like there are a couple of new copies for sale at Amazon as well as a few good used copies available at Amazon Marketplace and eBay. MP3s are available as well at Amazon.

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testament_Records_(United_States)

https://web.archive.org/web/20061106015124/http://bluesworld.com/PWTestessay.html

https://www.wirz.de/music/testamen.htm

(Stefan lists it under the original LP number: T-2222 released in 1971; There are embedded YouTube links, but they do not work as of this writing. However, check YouTube for numerous Jack Owens and Bud Spires videos, including cuts from the album.)

As you can see Testament recorded and released music by a lot of great artists.

John posted his message while I was writing this one, but I'm posting it as written. John can correct my errors as he sees fit.

« Last Edit: November 09, 2019, 01:18:44 PM by Stuart »

Offline lindy

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2019, 12:16:42 PM »
I tried accessing several of the youtube videos from Stefan's website and repeatedly got "Video not available" messages.

HOWEVER, if you go to the Jack Owens or Bud Spires topic collections on youtube, you can get access to the entire LP and a handful of videos of individual songs.

I only had time to listen to "Can't See, Baby" ... wow!

Lindy

Offline Stuart

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2019, 01:27:56 PM »
Thanks, Lindy. I corrected my post. I got sidetracked by the Otis Spann YT links and never made it down to personally check the links to the Jack Owens and Bud Spires LP. Assumptions, assumptions...

There are also videos under the "Alan Lomax Archive."

Offline eric

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2019, 03:03:46 PM »
Thanks everyone.  I ordered a used CD from amazon, and I look forward to hearing it.  It appears they are out of new CDs; they have an mp3 download available, but that format just seems to lack something, at least to my ears.
--
Eric

Offline eric

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2020, 01:11:08 PM »
This album is just as good as JohnM says it is, and although it's out of print, it is available on Apple Music.
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Eric

Offline DerZauberer

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2020, 01:24:22 AM »
I ordered a vinyl copy via Discogs, from Canada to the UK, paid more for shipping than for the record, but it's 100% worth it!
"The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are." - Son House

Offline jostber

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2020, 12:22:25 PM »
It's worth checking out this Blues Documentary on Jack Owens and Bud Spires as well for those who has not seen it:



Offline monts

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Re: "It Must Have Been The Devil"--Testament Records TCD5016
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2020, 12:04:37 PM »
Thank you for posting this album! SO good!

 


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