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Next time the bossman hit me, I'm gonna give him a big surprise - Lightnin' Hopkins, Penitentiary Blues

Author Topic: Gems from the Lomax collection  (Read 3799 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Gems from the Lomax collection
« on: February 08, 2010, 01:56:03 PM »
I've been exploring various Alan Lomax recordings lately, listening to material I may have passed over too quickly previously, or haven't heard before. It's unfortunate that a fair amount of the material from the Deep River of Song series and the Southern Journey series seems to be becoming increasingly unavailable. So for those who don't have access to the material already on LP or CD this thread may prove an exercise in frustration. Although there are a number of volumes in both series that seem to be kicking around still.

Anyway, I thought I'd start a thread where people might mention any favorites, gems, hidden treasures from the Lomax collection, in print or out.

I've been listening to Southern Journey Volume 3, 61 Highway Mississippi lately and it is an excellent collection of field recordings made in 1959. In addition to the Sid Hemphill/Lucius Smith song "Emmaline, Take Your Time" I mentioned in the quills thread, it has a slew of great material, including some prison and work songs, some really fabulous church songs, as well as material by Fred McDowell, and John Dudley, who does one of the closest takes on Charley Patton I've heard.

Two songs in particular I've been going back to though are by Bob and Miles Pratcher. The Pratchers were from Como, Mississippi, and Miles shows up on a few McDowell recordings, but here he plays guitar and sings with Bob on fiddle. Only two songs are included, "I'm Gonna Live Anyhow 'Till I Die" and "If It's All Night Long". This is infectious dance style material, a preblues or proto blues kind of music, and reminds me a good deal of Butch Cage and Willie Thomas. I've only found reference to six recordings of the Pratchers as a fiddle/guitar duo made by Lomax, with 2 or 3 others - "Joe Turner", "Buttermilk - appearing elsewhere.

Anyone have any gems from the Lomax collection?
« Last Edit: February 08, 2010, 01:57:16 PM by uncle bud »

Offline jostber

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2010, 07:34:42 AM »
Thanks for this input on the Lomax series. Have not heard those cuts. I have invested in some his italian series, pretty great stuff too!

http://www.amazon.com/Italian-Treasury-Folk-Music-Italy/dp/B00000J2R5
http://www.abconcerts.be/en/alan-lomax-the-italian-treasure-trove-mim
http://www.loc.gov/folklife/lomax/lomax.html





Offline jostber

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2010, 07:46:21 AM »

Offline oddenda

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2010, 12:16:05 AM »
If Alan did it, it's probably worth your attention! He may have been an individual that got up peoples' noses, but as a field "recordist" he was unbeatable. It all depends on your preferences, and the "bigness" of your ears. Just ask Roswell Rudd, for one! Or me!!

Peter B.

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2010, 12:38:24 PM »
I have Southern Journey Volume 3, 61 Highway Mississippi and it is great.
I also have Southern Journey Volume 1, Voices from the American South which is mostly white performers, Appalachia I would call it.  It too is quite good.

I can't name faves from either, I am revisiting both because of your post.  Thanks for the reminder!  From Vol 1 what really caught my ear was Pretty Polly by Estil Ball.  It is sung in a style similar to Doc Watson, and nicely fingerpicked, using some  unusual bass line patterns.  The guitar is beautifully recorded.  Playing in D, maybe drop D or open D, but I think it is more playable in standard for me.  I don't hear the low D in the recording.  The song is modal, so the guitar rarely leaves D.  For me this is wild and instructive, because the vocal clearly moves to the IV chord. 

Jostber, I don't think that link is complete because it doesn't list the same names of the Southern Journey volumes.  Maybe the same material got recombined for the CD era?  I think the link is only concerned with vinyl.

Dave
« Last Edit: February 12, 2010, 02:25:24 PM by davek »

Offline jostber

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2010, 11:46:01 PM »
Another gem from Lomax here, from Haiti:

http://www.document-records.com/alan-lomax-haiti.asp




Offline banjochris

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2010, 12:12:19 AM »

From Vol 1 what really caught my ear was Pretty Polly by Estil Ball.  It is sung in a style similar to Doc Watson, and nicely fingerpicked, using some  unusual bass line patterns.  The guitar is beautifully recorded.  Playing in D, maybe drop D or open D, but I think it is more playable in standard for me.  I don't hear the low D in the recording.  The song is modal, so the guitar rarely leaves D.  For me this is wild and instructive, because the vocal clearly moves to the IV chord. 

Dave, try capoing up and playing it out of C position. The bass notes will fit right into C and G shapes. I have another recording of Ball playing Pretty Polly (on an excellent album recorded by John Cohen called High Atmosphere) and on that recording he plays it out of E position, using the exact same bass notes and accompaniment pattern, but with the occasional minor-major third hammer on on the G string, which gives it something of a different feel.

Southern Journey Vol. 2 has some excellent old-time music, including more from Ball and some playing from the great Hobart Smith.
Chris

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2010, 09:56:32 AM »
I second Chris's recommendation of the old-time focused Southern Journey Vol. 2. Not only does it have the Hobart Smith material he mentions, but a number of tracks from Wade Ward playing both solo and with Charlie Higgins and others.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2010, 11:39:33 AM »
Hi all,
Sorry for a bit of thread creep, but E.C. Ball made two wonderful albums with his wife, Orna Mae, for Rounder in the early '70s, with lots of excellent guitar-playing and terrific hymn-singing.  The great guitarist and guitar maker Wayne Henderson knew and was influenced by Estil Ball, growing up with the Balls as neighbors.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2010, 09:55:39 AM »
Recorded on one of John Lomax's field recording trips made without Alan, in June of 1936 at the State Farm in Lynn, Virginia, Jimmie Strothers is one of those musicians we're just damn lucky got recorded, because he disappears after that. (In this case, recorded by Harold Spivacke, who manned the equipment that day.) Almost nothing is known about him. Apparently when Lomax arrived at the State Farm, the warden had arranged for a quartet to perform for the visitors. Only problem was they were terrible. On the steps of the warden's house, however, was a blind banjo player and Lomax eventually zeroed in on him, getting rid of the quartet. "[T]o Spivacke's amazement" Lomax "did nothing but talk to him for hours. Lomax encouraged the blind musician to tell his life story, 'swapped songs with him and did everything but make records'..." This was Jimmie Strothers.

His recorded repertoire, played mostly on banjo with a couple songs on guitar, suggests he was not very young and very much a link to the end of the nineteenth century, and includes versions of Cripple Creek (as Thought I Heard My Banjo Say) and Tennessee Dog. It's a mix of folk songs, minstrel material and religious songs, even some dirty material like Poontang Little, Poontang Small, and an 8-bar blues called Going to Richmond that stretches to a remarkable 6 minutes. A loose and rhythmic player with a rich voice, Strothers is a joy to listen to and only makes you wish he'd been recorded much more.

There's only 14 or so tracks, some quite short. Some are found on the Alan Lomax Collection - Deep River of Song series - Virginia and the Piedmont - Minstrelsy, Work Songs, and Blues. Most of it, with the exception of Going to Richmond, is available on the Document CD, Field Recordings Vol. 1: Virginia (1936-1941) DOCD-5575. Richmond is on the Deep River of Song disc.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 09:57:02 AM by uncle bud »

Offline jostber

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2010, 02:54:44 PM »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 12:07:17 PM »
After Laura posted her version of Mary Don't You Weep on the back porch (nice job, Laura), I dug through a few recordings of the song by Hurt and also the very nice versions by Lead Belly, as it is a favorite of mine. Those then led me to this, Pharaoh, sung by Sidney Carter, daughter of Sid Hemphill, and sister to Rosalie Hill - talent was in that family, for sure.

You can hear an interview with her here (scroll down the page): http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/audio-ix-recording.jsp?d-446288-p=2

And here's Pharaoh. Might as well quit singing.




Offline Laura

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2012, 12:29:17 PM »
Ah, beautiful!  Now that's how I wish I could sing :D

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2012, 07:04:47 PM »
Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers sure are a pleasure. This is one where someone other than Bessie -- John Davis -- takes the lead. I don't have the notes handy, but maybe someone else can confirm that Hobart Smith is also in on this one playing fretless mountain banjo, as I recall.


Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Gems from the Lomax collection
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2012, 10:28:46 AM »
Sampson Buddy Pittman




« Last Edit: October 19, 2012, 10:29:47 AM by JohnLeePimp »
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

 


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