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Usually it'll sound better if you don't rehearse it - Doc Watson plays with Earl Scruggs, The Complete Earl Scruggs Story

Author Topic: Notable Strummers  (Read 5539 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Notable Strummers
« on: January 06, 2008, 09:35:12 AM »
I was listening to J.D. Short the other day -- the rediscovery-era recordings on the Sonet Blues Story CD -- and marvelled once again at the great sound he gets on these tunes. His singing is fabulous and his guitar playing is "simple", relying heavily on strumming chords. But it's groove-heavy strumming. It really is a big part of his sound on these recordings. This got me thinking how normally country blues guitar nerds like myself are so often focused in their playing and listening on more "complex" finger-picking styles. But I find creating/duplicating a really great strumming groove can be just as difficult -- even moreso, at times, since it can involve learning a new technique. Is it a hand brush, played with a flatpick etc. Short has heavy (and accelerating) time and he just knocks out those chords. This started me to thinking about some other notable strummers.

Henry Thomas - I'm still not sure what he's doing in his strumming on tunes like Lovin' Babe, Charmin' Betsy, but a good chunk of his sound throughout his repertoire is generated by quick strumming. Thumbstroke and handbrush? Frailing?

Big Joe Williams - again, a huge part of Big Joe's sound is his amazing rhythmic strumming patterns. He's a groove powerhouse -- I listen to him and think, "man, I wanna do that". Easier said than done.

Lil McClintock - more obscure, but I've always loved his sound on things like Furniture Man and Don't Think I'm Santa Claus.

Sleepy John Estes - certainly not a complex guitar player, but his music always sounds fabulous. He's got great support, of course, whether it's Yank Rachell, Jab Jones, Hammie Nixon, Son Bonds etc. But he's still got a "sound" in his strumming accompaniment that I find tricky to nail down. The stuff without Yank or Jab Jones is some of my favourite material - sacreligious, I know.  :P Just one or two strummy guitars and some occasional harmonica. Not super tough, but you rarely hear someone pull off the same groove.

Any other notable strummers?

Offline Rivers

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2008, 10:38:21 AM »
Garfield Akers and Joe Callicot Cottonfield Blues is a strumfest.

Barbecue Bob's 12 string strumming  gets pretty out there when combined with the grungy IV chord he uses in open G. Yo Yo Blues is the classic example but it goes through all his playing. He turns the strum patterns into riffs by hitting just the right strings and frets.

It's a big part of Fred McDowell and Blind Willie Johnson's sound too. I guess slide players might feature heavily here.

What about Scrapper? Or does that thing he does count as a 'rake'?
« Last Edit: January 06, 2008, 10:43:45 AM by Rivers »

Offline dj

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2008, 11:20:55 AM »
Joe McCoy - Whether he's doing bass runs and chords backing Memphis Minnie or swing chords with the Harlem Hamfats, he can really drive an ensemble.

Walter Vincson - I took me decades to appreciate what he does with the Mississippi Sheiks, but I certainly appreciate it now.
 

Offline frankie

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2008, 11:58:33 AM »
Walter Vincson

Walter Vincson, Bo Carter and Sam Chatmon all variously provided backup for the fiddling in the Sheiks, and their styles in that role are almost identical.  I was just thinking about this topic yesterday & wrote something about it on my site...  weird!

Online Johnm

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2008, 02:27:42 PM »
Hi all,
I agree with the other posters, Andrew, you've come up with a great topic here.  Two great strummers come to mind:  George "Big Boy" Owens had a great tune on the old Yazoo "Going Away" anthology, I think it might have been called "Kentucky Blues".  Anyway, he was a sensational strummer, with a really loose right wrist and great time.  Another is the youthful Henry Townsend, who must, like Joe Williams, be one of the all-time greats in this area.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Rivers

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2008, 02:49:56 PM »
Charlie Patton likes to finish off a fingerpicked line with a signature strumming pattern. Down The Dirt Road Blues comes to mind.

I also thought of Henry Townsend and forgot to type it. His early stuff makes superb use of damped strums, sometimes just on the downstroke, where Scrapper would play upstrokes. Do one-way strums count as strums though? Perhaps we need a definition.

This is a good topic, it highlights how a lot of great players get variety into their playing. We tend to obsess over fingerpicking around here.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2008, 02:51:37 PM »
Sleepy John had a bit o' complex thumb work goin' before he chunked down with a strum. It took me years of deep aural contemplation to arrive at his "New Someday Baby' bass-strum thang. So beautiful! So cool!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline lindy

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2008, 08:27:27 AM »
I see a strong connection between this thread and the swung/straight eighth's thread.

The one artist who I think could really swing by himself, no harmonica or bass or any other accompianment, was Smokey Babe. In that one song that JohnM taught us a few years back, Boogie-Woogie Rag, Smokey freely jumps back-and-forth between swung/straight, and when he swings, he hits a groove that few other solo guitarists were ever capable of. I think it fits with this thread because he's strumming across at least 3 strings, sometimes more, and sometimes strumming and picking at the same time. At least that's what it sounds like to these ears.

On cuts he recorded with his harmonica player, he was all swing. The song about raccoon huntin' is a good example--a great groove, the harmonica player just squawkin' a single note for much of the song. In the swung/straight eighth's thread I was going to write something about the necessity of having a second rhythm instrument as a counterpoint to a guitar in order to inject that swing feeling into country blues, but I have to think that idea through a bit more.

Any other Smokey Babe-like examples?

Lindy
« Last Edit: January 07, 2008, 08:38:02 AM by lindy »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2008, 07:22:21 PM »
Lots of guys could swing by themselves, no one more so than Big Bill if we're talkin' ' bout the same thing when we say swing.
But Smoky Babe is one of my all time faves. Drives it like a S.O.B!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline banjochris

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2008, 12:31:19 PM »
I'll add Son House to this thread -- not only are his strums powerful musically but visually as well.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2008, 10:23:42 AM »
Rivers mentioned Barbecue Bob earlier, and I've coincidentally been listening a lot to him lately. He is one of the most powerful strummers around, I think. Things like "California Blues" are insane.

Another strummer (not as exciting as Bob, but few are): Jim Jackson. He has a few ways of playing - leaning more towards fingerpicking on songs like "Monday Woman Blues", banjo-style on "Old Dog Blue", but on tunes like "Wild About My Lovin'", "This Morning She Was Gone" and "I'm a Bad Bad Man" he's very strummy in a style that actually reminds me sometimes of Lil McClintock (or is it vice versa). Old Dog Blue is actually pretty strummy as well but is so different - and great.


Offline Rivers

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2009, 10:54:43 PM »
As mentioned elsewhere, Lead Belly has a seamless, relentless and controlled strumming style making the perfect backing for his fingerpicking and hammer on lines. The more I listen to Huddie the more I appreciate what he achieved in that respect.

While I'm at it, Rev. Gary Davis has that combination strum/pick thing going on, and very accurate choices of which three or so strings to rake.

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2009, 02:22:47 AM »
Booker White,Tommy McClennan,Robert Petway,Charlie Patton and Blind Lemon.None relied exclusively on just strumming,but i think all excelled at integrating strummed passages seamlessly into their work,Patton and Lemon turning it into an art form-great to see Sleepy John get some praise for his guitar work-he`s often criticised for his playing-i think he`s wonderful.
                     take care,lyndvs.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2009, 03:07:08 AM by Lyndvs »

Offline lindy

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2009, 06:49:56 AM »

R. L. Burnside. All of his versions of Poor Black Mattie, Jumper on the Line, Skinny Woman, groove machine stuff. I'm sure most of youse have seen this vid already, but try to watch it and stop yourself from jumping up out of your chair and shakin' whatever you got:



If you really love strumming, play Cajun music. I just spent the last four days in Mamou, Eunice, Breaux Bridge, Henderson, and Iota doing a country Mardi Gras and sat in on three jam sessions, including one that was held on a boat floating through the Atchafalaya swamp. Love them waltzes, strum changka-changka strum changka-changka strum changka-changka strum changka-changka strum changka-changka strum changka-changka, and when there's no bass fiddle, the strummer is the rhythm section. You can get into a trance thing backing up a lively two-step, too. I can easily see how a lot of our dead heroes picked up some extra cash playing rhythm at hoedowns.

Lindy

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Notable Strummers
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2009, 05:15:17 PM »
Nice video link, Lindy, that is really grooving.

I've watched a few vids lately of Snooks Eaglin (RIP) and although not acoustic, he really grooves too.  There are older records of him on acoustic though.  As I recall some tunes with rhythm, some without.  He really did the strum - brief single note stuff - strum combination very well.

DK

 


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