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Author Topic: Carolina Slim  (Read 3489 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Carolina Slim
« on: July 02, 2006, 12:39:29 AM »
As the Juke seems bereft of any examples of this artist's 27 recordings made between 1950-2 I thought I might encourage the power that be to add a few by posting this 1985 liner note. The complete recordings are available Document BDCD-6043 (1993):

Carolina Blues & Boogie by Carolina Slim
Chris Smith

Carolina Slim's first album was issued posthumously around 1960, and was called "Blues From The Cottonfields", from which it can be concluded that it wasn't aimed at whatever black audience still existed for downhome blues. Wilson Winslow's sleevenotes bear this out, pitching the product at the Burl Ives/New Lost City Ramblers/Peter Paul and Mary "folk" market - "He was a troubador of the Blues a Johnny Appleseed' planting songs in the hearts of people wherever he strode on his never-ending pilgrimage." Hard information is less easy to come by, and what there is available needs careful treatment.

Although he never had a record issued under his real name, it seems generally accepted that Carolina S1im, Country Paul (with composer credit to Paul Howard), Lazy Slim Jim and Jammin' Jim conceal the identity of one Ed Harris. He was also known, says Winslow, as Georgia Pine, and was born in Texas! It's possible, for Mississippian John Lee Hooker was Texas Slim, Delta John and Birmingham Sam, and the Georgia Pine soubriquet probably refers in proverbial fashion to his height. The late Mike Leadbitter drew from Henry Glover a recollection of Country Paul (as King styled him) as "a sickly young man in his early twenties", but the King files had no additional data. A number of informants vaguely recalled a Carolina Slim to Bruce Bastin during his researches in the Carolinas, but the nickname is one that was probably borne by a number of men, and definite recollections were absent. The indefatigable Sheldon Harris's "Blues Who's Who" contains what, so far, is the most extensive biography, culled presumably from Savoy files, although no source data are given. From this we learn that Edward P. Harris was born August 22,1923 in Leasburg, Caswell County North Carolina, and died in St. James Hospital, Newark, New Jersey on October 22,1953 of a heart attack during surgery for a back ailment. Like Blind Boy Fuller, one of his musical influences, he only just made it into his fourth decade before succumbing to the complications of medical treatment. We are fortunate that, prior to this untimely event, Carolina Slim was recorded quite extensively, with nineteen titles issued on Savoy and its subsidiary Sharp and Acorn labels, and eight on King. (Four Savoy recordings have yet to be issued, or three if "Lazy Boogie" is, as seems possible, an alternative title for "Carolina Boogie".) This recording career was concentrated into a brief span of two years between July 1950 and June 1952, and this album brings together some of the highlights from the sessions held in Newark.

Clearly, there was a market for downhome blues in New York and along the North-eastern seaboard, as the recording of Ralph Willis, Gabriel Brown, Alec Seward and others attests. Considering this, and the extent of Savoy's commitment to Ed Harris as a member of its roster, it is surprising that his records for the company were issued under three different pseudonyms, which cannot have helped customers who had enjoyed one record to find others by him. It may be that it was felt that the best way to capitalise on the popularity of Lightnin' Hopkins, whose style Ed Harris reproduced so successfully, was to issue the product under a variety of obvious noms de disque, in the hope that purchasers would be deceived into thinking that they were buying Hopkins in disguise. Whatever the reasoning, we must be grateful that so much strong material saw the light of day.

If one wants to schematise Carolina Slim's music, it can be divided into Lightnin' Hopkins imitations and Piedmont numbers in the style of Blind Boy Fuller and Buddy Moss. "Money Blues", with second guitar and an under-recorded washboard, perhaps falls between the two approaches instrumentally it leans towards North Carolina, but the vocal shows both how remarkably accurate Slim's mimicry of Hopkins was and how, nevertheless, it never becomes mere slavish copying. The startling thing about this, and other Hopkins-styled items, is the way in which the singer composes original Iyrics which, somehow, are straight out of the Hopkins view of the world. This is particularly striking on "Black Chariot Blues", where voice, guitar and imagery are all Hopkins to the life. "Sugaree" is loosely related to Lightnin's "Sugar Mama' (Aladdin 3015), which itself derives from Sonny Boy Williamson's "Sugar Mama Blues", probablv via Tommy McClennan, but this is the closest Carolina Slim comes to a direct cover of an artist he clearly admired. "Imitator" is usually a pejorative in the discussion of blues singers, although true originals are not exactiv thick on the ground; Carolina Slim's imitations of Lightnin' Hopkins ought not to be dismissed lightly, however, for at their best they are fully the equal of the original's work. The beautiful "Slo Freight Blues" (remade, less successfully, for King as "Your Picture Done Faded", is a performance in the very highest class.

"Mama's Boogie" stomps along with a lyric out of the Sam Hopkins songbook, but features also a tasteful bottleneck lead, which may not be played by Slim, although obviously this is impossible to determine. The playing has some of the exuberance of Blind Willie McTell and Curley Weaver's duets, particularly in the breaks, which are genuine two-guitar efforts, rather than lead and accompaniment. "Worrying Blues" demonstrates to perfection the continuity of blues stylings after the Second World War, for it could just as easily have been recorded in the thirties by Blind Boy Fuller or Buddy Moss. The lyrics are traditional, adding to the timeless quality of the whole performance, which is crowned by a superb guitar break.

"One More Drink", with an unobtrusive drummer lending support, is a blues parallel to Johnny Mercer's "One For My Baby", like that popular classic addressed to a long-suffering bartender. In considerable contrast is "Carolina Boogie', which Wilson Winslow archly sums up as a "dialogue about feminine dimensions capabilities and desirability". The participants in the dialogue, presumably Harris and either the second guitarist or less probably the very professional drummer, are clearly relaxed and at their ease - "Shit, she know what she doin' too," says Slim at one point. The performance, though related to the standard Hopkins boogie number, is in a tradition that goes back on record to Pinetop Smith, and the record also has much in common with the good time jiving of contemporaries like Sonny Boy & Lonnie, who recorded for Continental.

The familiar "Sittin? On Top Of The World" melody that produced a huge hit for the Mississippi Sheiks prewar is the basis for both "I'll Get By Somehow" and "Worry You Off My Mind". Again we seem to be caught in a time warp, and could be listening to recordings from twenty and more years earlier. With "Rag Mama" the process becomes explicit; this is of course, the number recorded by Blind Boy Fuller in 1935 with support from Blind Gary Davis and Bull City Red. More than being simply a revival of an old number, however, this is a consciously old-fashioned treatment, the drummer attempting, with startling success, to mimic the sound of a washboard on his cymbals. "Blues Go Away From Me" and "Blues Knockin' At My Door", similar in mood and styie though recorded three months apart, maintain the links with an earlier generation of musicians, preserving the beauty and strength of Buddy Moss and Blind Boy Fuller in the unlovely environs of Newark. "Wine Head Baby", too, has links with the past, the melody being ultimately traceable to "The Dirty Dozens", although it may well derive more directly from Stick McGhee's 1949 smash, "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee", which possibly influenced the choice of subject also.

Ed Harris remains an elusive figure, even now that we have dates of birth and death to attach to his numerous names. As always, he is only elusive because there has been a search mounted for him, and that would not have happened but for the body of music that he committed to wax in the early fifties. Some of the best of that music is presented here, and listening to it one rather wishes that Wilson Winslow's sleeve note was true: "the great legacy of folk blues music he has left us lingers on, growing in importance and impact with each new hearing.' The reality, of course, is that Carolina Slim's music has languished in obscurity; it's to be hoped that this reissue will apply a necessary corrective. (Travelin? Man TM805)

Sources: Bruce Bastin - Crying For The Carolinas. Studio Vista 1971; R.M.W. Dixon & J. Godrich - Blues & Gospel Records, 1902-1943. Storyville, 1982; Sheldon Harris - Blues Who's Who. Arlington House, 1979; Mike Leadbitter & Neil Slaven - Blues Records 1943-1966. Hanover, 1968; Mike Leadbitter - "Mike's Blues", Blues Unlimited 104, October/November 1973; Mike Leadbitter - Notes to Polydor Carnival 2941 201, nd; Michel Ruppli - The Savoy Label - A Discography. Greenwood Press, 1980; Wilson Winslow - Notes to Sharp 2002, nd.

« Last Edit: April 19, 2007, 04:26:33 PM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2006, 05:19:58 AM »
Thanks for the post, Bunker Hill.  A few years ago I made a push to collect all the Document CDs by artists from Atlanta and the East Coast.  The Carolina Slim CD was one of the few that, for some reason, I never got around to purchasing.  I guess I'll have to correct that.

Online Johnm

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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2007, 04:46:10 PM »
Thanks, Bunker Hill, for starting this thread originally, and Stefan, for putting together the Carolina Slim discography.  Somehow I missed this on the first go-round, but it speaks to something I've always wondered about:  present-day North Carolina bluesman John Dee Holman is expert both in Blind Boy Fuller-type playing and Lightnin' Hopkins style playing too, and I always was curious about the Lightnin' Hopkins material.  It turns out there was a precedent for John Dee, and that Carolina Slim trod the same territory a number of years earlier.  That's very interesting.
All best,

Offline dj

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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2007, 06:08:00 PM »
Hi, John.

It amazes me how influential Lightnin' Hopkins seems to have been along the East Coast.  The Roy Dunn, from Atlanta, who recorded for Trix in the early 1970s, professed himself a Hopkins fan.



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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2007, 02:04:20 PM »
The slide on Mama's Boogie can also be derived from Tampa Red's like on Somebody Been Using That Stuff. It has somewhat Tampa Red's sound I think. I also think I heard someone else doing this in a more rural than Tampa Red's sound, even closer to Carolina Slim but I don't recall what it was as I recall I heard it on internet radio station of pre war blues 3 years ago but I don't have the cd and I don't know who played it.

ps. it is also built similar to Tampa Red/Georgia Tom Tight Like That
« Last Edit: April 20, 2007, 02:19:55 PM by tommersl »

Offline rjtwangs

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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2008, 01:37:26 PM »
I really like the CAROLINA SLIM cd on document and I'm really glad to read so much about him. I just got the cd a few weeks ago from Bluebeat Music for $9.99. It was certainly well worth it!


Offline oddenda

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Re: Carolina Slim
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2008, 04:00:52 AM »
When working for Joe Fields and Muse Records on Savoy blues releases, I remember Joe showing me a letter from Herman Lubinsky down to the sheriff of Ed Harris' county in NC asking if that man had any information on that Black man that he should know about! I also think that there was an answer that gave Harris a clean bill-of-health. My, my, my.

     Peter B.


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