WeenieCampbell.com

Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: Johnm on January 13, 2005, 06:00:03 PM

Title: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 13, 2005, 06:00:03 PM
Hi all,
It occurred to me that in the 8-bar and 16-bar blues threads, we have always thus far tied the forms to chord progressions, which can be helpful, but which altogether neglects the extent to which the vocal phrasing and phrase lengths are what really drive blues phrasing.  Bearing that in mind, I thought it might be helpful in understanding the different blues forms to see how the vocal phrasing tends to be expressed in each form type. 

A 12-bar blues is most often expressed vocally in 3 four-bar phrases.  In some of the earlier country blues, the same lyric may be sung 3 times, as in Henry Thomas's "Bull Doze Blues                                                                                 I'm
going where you never get bull dozed            I'm
|      I              |         I            |    I     |    I    |
going where you never get bull dozed            I'm
|      IV            |       IV           |     I     |    I    |
going where you never get bull dozed
|      V7            |      V7            |   I     |    I    |
In this instance you can see that Henry Thomas was phrasing in front of the beat, and was starting each vocal phrase in advance of the downbeat of the 4-bar phrase.  In this case, and in many or most others, the same melodic line is sung over the first two 4-bar phrases, and the way it sounds different over the IV chord in the second phrase as compared to the I chord in the first phrase is what creates much of the tension in the blues sound.  The melody in the third phrase, or tag line, is usually different, and creates a resolution to the tension between the first two lines.  Note, too, that most of the singing occurs in the first two bars of each four-bar phrase; this leaves the second two bars of each phrase available for an instrumental response or fill.
A more commonly encountered vocal phrasing for a 12-bar blues involves the introduction of a vocal line in the first 4-bar phrase, which is then repeated in the second four-bar phrase, followed by a tagline in the final 4-bar phrase that comments on/resolves the earlier repeated line.  From Mance Lipscomb's "If I Miss The Train":
                                                              If I mi-
ss the train got a big black mule to ride        If I mi-
|          I            |            I           |   I   |    I     |
ss the train got a big black mule to ride        If i mi-
|          IV           |            I          |   I   |    I     |                                 
ss that mule got a automobile to drive
|      V7                |          I        |    I    |    I     |
The vocal phrasing here is very similar to that in the Henry Thomas song, the biggest difference being the presence of the different tag line.  The harmony is slightly different, with the I chord returning in the 10th bar rather than the 11th.  These subtle changes in the blues form tend to be more commonly encountered in Country Blues than in modern day amplified blues.
Another kind of 12-bar vocal phrasing which became really popular in the 1930s is what I would call the "Chorus Blues".  For some reason, it has always had a more Show Biz or Pop feel to it for me than the previously discussed 12-bar phrasings.  In the Chorus Blues, a different line is sung over each of the first four bars of the form and then the chorus arrives as you hit the IV chord, continuing to the end of the form.  The Mississippi Sheiks' "Sales Tax" is a good example.
Old Aunt Martha lives behind the jail A sign on her door says "Liquor for sale"Oh the 
|          I                    |         I         |          I                   |     I        |                   
sales tax is on it           Oh the sales tax is on it    yes the
|         IV          |   IV            |          I           | I          |
sales tax is on it    everywhere you go.
|        V7          |        IV               |     I     |  I     |
Other well-known Chorus Blues include Tampa Red and Georgia Tom's "Tight Like That" and Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe's "Bothering That Thing".  Note that in the chorus blues, the only lines which change from one verse to the next are those that are sung over the first four bars.  Also, the lyric-heavy nature of the first four bars does not really allow any space for fills.  The fills tend to fall in the 6th, 8th, 11th and 12th bars.

8-bar blues phrase out differently than 12-bar blues, as you might expect.  Though not so commonly encountered, there are 8-bar blues that simply sing the same line twice (though with a different melody in the repetition).  John Hurt's "Slidin' Delta" goes
That sli---din' del--ta    run right by my door
        |       I   |   V7   |       IV7            |   IV7    |
        slidin' delta run right by my door
        |       I        |       Vmin7      |    I   |  I    |
Often an 8-bar blues will phrase out vocally as one longish thought with no repetition a la Furry Lewis's "Dryland Blues"
I can look through muddy wa-ter,   baby, and spy dryland  If you
        |       I                     |   V7 |        IV7           | IV7         |
don't want me, baby, let's shake hand in hand.
|        I                  |          V7              |  I    |   I   |
From these examples, you can see that the biggest space for fills in the 8-bar form falls in the 7th and 8th bars, and it is no coincidence that Furry and John Hurt both often extend the form between verses by really loading on some great fills.
As with the 12-bar form, the 8-bar form similarly has its own version of the chorus blues.  Two of the archetypal 8-bar chorus blues are the Mississippi Sheiks "Sitting on Top of The World" and Leroy Carr's "How Long Blues"
How long, how long, has that evening train been gone? How lo-
        |  I          |       I7        |         IV7          |  IV7         |
-ng? how long,  baby how long
|        I    |      V7            |    I    |   V7    |
Leroy Carr created such a beautiful rhythmic tension in this song in the placement of his vocal phrases relative to the pulse and chord changes.  Notice how nothing squares up and he is constantly phrasing across bar lines and chord changes.  Genius!  The 8-bar chorus blues creates a natural space for a turn-around in the 7th and 8th bars, the idea of the turn-around being a nifty series of chords which moves you from I to V7 to lead back into the next verse.  Like the 12-bar version of the chorus blues, the only lyrics that change from one verse to the next in the 8-bar chorus blues are those that fall over the first 4 bars.  I will talk about the 16-bar blues next.
All best,
Johnm
 

 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 13, 2005, 07:30:27 PM
Hi all,
The 16-bar blues has, on occasion, had versions in which the same lyric phrase is repeated four times.  From Elvie Thomas's "Motherless Chile Blues"
 My mother told me just before she died          My
         |       I         |        I             |   I    |  I    |
        mother told me just before she died            My
        |      IV             |       IV          |    I    |   I    |
        mother told me just before she died           My
        |      IV             |       IV          |    I    |  I    |
        mother told me just before she died
        | IV/VI             |      V7            |   I    |  I    |
In this case, and in most, for a 16-bar blues, the same melody is sung over the second and third vocal lines.  The 16-bar form also really seems to lean on the movement to the IV chord, since in most instances it repeats it.  Incidentally, if you have never heard this song, do whatever it takes to hear it.  I think it is kind of a miracle--so beautiful.
Probably most often in a 16-bar blues the opening lyrical phrase will be repeated twice and then rounded off with a tag line, as in Lemon Jefferson's "One Dime Blues".
 I brought the  morning      news         Lawd, Lawd,    I
   |        I        |       I         |   I  (long)  |         I        |               
   brought the  morning      news                                I
   |      IV       |      IV        |      I            |  I               |
   brought the  morning       news                    then I
   |     IV        |      IV        |      I      |   I               |
   brought a     ceegar       too         
   |      I          | I     V7       |     I      |     I         |
Where Lemon is long in the 3rd bar he is coming out of a tremolo passage and doing some bends--kind of an instrumental aside that doesn't really alter the structure, but stands outside it in a way. 
Finally, there are 16-bar versions of the Chorus Blues, as well.  A great one is Marshall Owens's "Try Me One More Time".
Woke up this morning, half past two, got another woman and I can't use you
|            I                  |      I          |                 I                 |         I     |         
Try me       Try me one more time
|   IV         |          IV            |    I    |    I    |
Try me       Try me one more  time      she said ta--
|   IV         |           IV            |  I    |    I           |
ake me back and try me one more time
|       V7            |     IV                 |   I    |    I   |
As with other Chorus blues, the phrasing of the verse in the first four bars tends to be straight up and down, and not nearly as syncopated or in as complex a relationship with the pulse as in the non-chorus blues.  Maybe this is because so many words need to be fit in that there is less wiggle room to fool around with the phrasing.  Marshall Owens phrasing of the chorus is really exceptional.  He always sings the word "time" right across the bar line and chord change, and the way he phrases the tag line, "she said take . . ." in front of the beat holding the melody note for "take" across the chord change into the V chord is really beautiful.  Note also that the fill areas follow the characteristic format of the other Chorus Blues:  no space in the first four bars, but good space in the 7th, 8th, 11th, 12, 15th and 16th bars.
Of course there are many Country Blues, even within the 8, 12 and 16-bar categories that do not conform to the phrasing schemes that I've outlined here and in the other post, and that is one of the beauties of the style:  it accommodates individual variations of formal conventions so generously.  A huge number of blues do adhere really closely to the vocal and instrumental phrasings we've seen here, though, and so to that extent, it may be worth thinking about when you listen to songs in the style or try to come up with your own.
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 14, 2005, 10:43:14 PM
Hi all,
I just encountered another phrasing archetype for the 12-bar blues (I'm sure there are very very many).? It is Charley Jordan's "Hunkie Tunkie" and it plays out as follows:
Lord I'm going uptown, find the chief of police, my woman quit me & I can't see no peace, yeah--(first four bars)
She keep me worried and bothered all the time-------------yes she(second four bars)
Keep me worried and bothered all the time---------------Well I (last four bars)
The form starts with the gabby lyrics in the first four bars that we would normally expect from a chorus blues, though the line, unlike a chorus blues, is extremely syncopated (as is the accompaniment).? A more terse line enters with the IV chord, leaving the space in bars 7 and 8 we would expect from a non-chorus blues, and then is repeated (with a different melody) in the last 4-bar phrase, leaving fill space in bars 11 and 12.? I had always appreciated the terrific rhythm in Charley Jordan's guitar part for this tune, but I don't think I ever fully registered the originality of the lyric scheme.
A closely related approach to phrasing can be found in Ishmon Bracey's "Saturday Blues":
I've got four or five puppies, got one shaggy hound, it takes all them dogs to run my women down, it takes(first four bars)
All of them dogs to run my women down-------------It takes (second four bars)
All of them dogs to run my women down--------------If you (last four bars)
Like "Hunkie Tunkie", "Saturday Blues" has the wordy lyric of a chorus blues in the first four bars, though quite syncopated, but it then extracts the tail end of the first four bar phrase to provide the lyric for the second and third four-bar phrases.? There is a wonderful economy in this method, and Ishmon Bracey employs it throughout the song, not just in the verse cited here.?
I've been listening to and playing this music for more than forty years now, and I have never thought about these issues of vocal phrasing like this before.? It is really grabbing me right now, and strikes me as the kind of thing that is particularly worth taking a look at if you are interested in writing songs in the style.? Anyhow, I hope this stuff is of some interest to someone other than me.? Sorry not to be posting mp3s on these songs, but I believe they can all be requested on the Juke.
All best,
Johnm?
?
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: waxwing on January 14, 2005, 11:09:44 PM
This is a terrific thread, John, and I feel there is something for everyone in looking at these ideas. Definitely a lot for me. Keep up the great work. Anything that is interesting for you about country blues that you feel like sharing is fine with me. Not only does it give me great choices about what to work on next and reasons why, I also find it gives me ideas for patter, which I try to make somewhat educational as I feel that that is a good way to develop the audience for country blues. Something I think that all of us who perform or are thinking about performing country blues should be aware of. Thanks.
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: a2tom on January 15, 2005, 07:32:15 AM
Yeah, I find this to be a very interesting thread, laying it out there as to vocal form - thanks very much, it really is helpful to hear this analysis from someone who knows probably 1000 more tunes than I do!  I first really noticed a variation from the standard "1st line repeated, then tagline" when listening to Brownie McGhee's Kansas City Blues (still a favorite of mine to play), which is a chorus blues.  It struck me so much that I ended up writing one of my own in that form (maybe some day it will be ready for the Back Porch) - so I am entirely on the page that thinking about form is quite relevant as you try to create your own. At the same time, I sometimes feel - OK, I almost always feel - that I am trying to force things into a form.  I wonder for how many great songs did the form beget the tune and vocal concept, or did they start as great snippets of word and melody that inevitably and naturally fell into a form?  How conscious is/was all this to the writers?

I agree that the chorus blues form does sound much more "pop", BTW.  My chorus blues has always been a more captivating tune for my family (who aren't into the blues) to listen to.  They even make up lines with me! - something about the way that the verse line leads into the repeating chorus makes it much more "accessible".

tom
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Richard on January 15, 2005, 10:42:52 AM
Excellent and just what I wanted, an analysis that I can understand  :) 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 16, 2005, 08:29:18 AM
Great thread, John. You've broken this down very clearly and it's stuff I've only recently started thinking about myself as I try to put more of the vocals over the guitar parts I've learned. Phrasing is a huge part of this process, aside from memorizing the damn lyrics. :P I think sometimes amateurs like myself tend to phrase the vocals too straight, up and down on the beat, when the original singers are more rhythmically subtle. It's good to remind yourself to not only learn the subtleties of a guitar part, but a vocal too. You may phrase it differently, but being aware of these typical forms will help you do that I think.

The phrasing similarities between Hunkie Tunkie and Saturday Blues had never occurred to me but you sure are right. I agree about Motherless Chile Blues as well. It gets overshadowed by Last Kind Words but is a really wonderful tune.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: OMpicker on January 16, 2005, 12:18:55 PM
Great thread.  I also like to listen to examples of the same tune sung in different contexts -- temporal: recorded at different points in time showing the influence of musical/cultural, etc. developments at different points; geographical: a St. Louis-area version v. a Texas-area version; cultural: urban v. country; or, as is often the case, a mixture of all.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 17, 2005, 11:28:53 AM
Hi all,
You make a good point, Andrew, of the dangers of phrasing things too straight up and down.  It can have a stiffening effect on the overall feel and flow.  I do think it is a worthwhile endeavor to spend time phrasing different places relative to the pulse, pushing and phrasing in front of the beat sometimes, sometimes phrasing back behind the beat.  If one can develop a degree of comfort with phrasing different places relative to the pulse, it becomes an aspect of performance that can change every time you do a song, even though you may be singing the same words every time.  It introduces a "here and now" aspect into each performance, and a sort of wild-card improvisatory effect.  I very much get this feel from Charley Patton''s singing; he appeared to be able to phrase anywhere relative to the pulse, and as a result his singing always sounds in the moment, and has a freshness that a memorized rendition can never have.  I guess there is no shortage of things to work on, but it all is worth it.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 21, 2005, 09:37:20 AM
Hi all,
I was thinking last night and came up with a couple of more phrasing archetypes.  The first you might call Ballad/Refrain.  It's kind of a subset of the chorus blues archetype, but in the chorus blues the chorus generally arrives with the IV chord, in the second four-bar phrase.  In the Ballad/Refrain, the chorus or refrain does not arrive until the last four-bar phrase.  For some reason, this set-up seems to turn up with particular frequency in narrative blues, which are not all that common, anyway.  For example, you find it in John Hurt's "Frankie", in both John Hurt's and Furry Lewis's versions of "Stackerlee" (Furry's has a different title), and in Mance Lipscomb's "Freddy".  In "Frankie" it works out as follows:
   Frankie was a woman, everybody knows----------------She pai- (first four bars)
   id one hundred dollars, for Albert a suit of clothes----He's her ma- (second four bars)
   an,    but he did her wrong.-----------------(third four bars)
One of the many cool things about "Frankie" is the way John Hurt slightly alters the refrain in different verses to match it up with the narrative flow in each verse, so that you end up with refrains of, "He's your man, and he's doing you wrong", "You's my man, and you doing me wrong", "He's my man, but he did me wrong", "Killing a man, and he did you wrong", etc.
Why all these narrative blues should share this same phrasing scheme I don't know, but maybe it is because, with a story to tell, you can't afford to devote two of the four-bar phrases to a chorus.  It is nice, though, to have the final four-bar phrase be a refrain that can comment on the story as it unfolds.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 22, 2005, 09:58:32 AM
Hi All -

To enhance John's descriptions of these various blues forms and phrasing, I'm posting some audio clips of the songs and verses referred to in the above posts. It will take a few posts.

John, the version I have of If I Miss the Train doesn't match up. It's from Texas Songster Vol 2 You Got to Reap What You Sow (Arhoolie).

Edited to add: Please note these are excerpts, not entire songs. They are to give those unfamiliar with the tunes a better idea of what John is describing.

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 22, 2005, 10:00:33 AM
Here are Slidin Delta, Dry Land, and How Long...

[attachment deleted by admin]

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 22, 2005, 10:03:33 AM
Here's Motherless Child, One Dime, Try Me One More Time...

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 22, 2005, 10:05:21 AM
Last but not least, Hunkie Tunkie, Saturday Blues and Frankie.

[attachment deleted by admin]

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 22, 2005, 10:13:09 AM
Thanks Andrew, very much, for posting the mp3s for the examples.  It makes the whole discussion a lot stronger.  I will have to check "If I Miss the Train" and see how I screwed up--that's what I get for working from memory!
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 25, 2005, 06:12:55 PM
Hi all,
Continuing in this idea of trying to identify different Blues vocal phrasing archetypes, I noticed one while listening to Bukka White's early recordings.? You could call it a "repetition blues" or "stammering blues", I guess, and a couple of examples will show how it works.? From William Harris's "Bullfrog Blues":
Got the bullfrog blues, mama,? can't be satis-?can't be satis-?mamlishfied, I got the bu-
? ? ? ? ? ?|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? |? I-four beats ?|?I-four beats? |? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
? ? ? ? ? ??-ullfrog blues and I can't be satis-fied? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?got the bu-
? ? ? ? ? ?| IV-four beats?? ? ? ? |IV-four beats|? I-four beats?|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? ?|
? ? ? ? ? ? -ullfrog blues and I can't be satis-fied? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ?Have you ev-
? ? ? ? ? ?| II7-four beats? ? ? ? | V7-4 beats? ?|?I/IV7-4 beats|? I-four beats?? ? ? ? ? ? |
From Bukka White's "Fixin' to Die", we find:
Just as sure as we's livin', babe, sure we's born to die, sure we's born to die, just as sure as we's liv----(first 4 bars)
iving, sure we's born to die-------------I (second four bars)
know I was born to die, but I hate to leave my children crying----Your mother trea-(last 4 bars)
It is kind of interesting that in two tunes that groove so differently, the phrasing should have so many similarities:
?* The phrases in the second, third and fourth bars of the first line in both songs start on the + of the first beat in the measure.? This has the effect of making the repetition of the phrase really rhythmic and funky.
?* Both songs resolve the final repetition of the opening line across the first four bars into the second four bars via a held note.? This creates a tremendous rhythmic tug in addition to getting that cool effect you always get from holding a note across a chord change.?
One final note about this archetype--It is relatively easy to employ it with any conventional blues lyric, so if you like the punchy rhythmic effect of the repetition, you can customize your own version.
All best,
Johnm
?
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: waxwing on January 26, 2005, 12:13:27 AM
Yeah, John, and of course, Willie Brown's Future Blues is another (perhaps earlier?) song that employs this technique, but only on a few verses. Really fun to sing those "repetition blues". Did either of Willie's cohorts, Charlie or Son, ever employ this style?
This makes me also think of the repeated interjection, like "Can't you hear me talkin' pretty Mama" from the Sheiks' Stop and Listen or the various songs incorporating "Hey Lordy Mama, Great God Almighty" as an interjection between lines. They don't really fall into the Chorus Blues scheme, do you think?
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 26, 2005, 10:12:46 AM
Good call, John C., on the next archetype I planned to do, the "response" archetype.  I agree that they are not chorus blues as described earlier.  For one thing, the response tends to happen in bars three and four of the first four bar phrase, unlike a chorus, that arrives on the IV chord.  Your choices are perfect, too--I hadn't thought of "Big Road Blues".
I ain't goin' down that big road by myself, now don't you hear me talkin' pretty mama, Lord, I ain'-----------------------(First 4 bars)
in't goin' down that big road by myself-----------I don't car-(second 4 bars)
ry you gonna carry somebody else-----------Next ver-(third 4 bars)
Or from Shirley Griffith, "Meet Me in The Bottom":
Meet me in the bottom, bring my boots and shoes, tonight ya mama, great God almighty(first four bars)
Meet me in the bottom, bring my boots and shoes-----I just co-(second 4 bars)
me by here, I ain't got no time to lose--------Well the wo-(third 4 bars)
Of course, "Meet Me In The Bottom" is much the same as Buddy Moss's "Ooh Lordy Mama". 
Once you think of these different archetypes, you realize other songs that fall into them.  One that falls into the "repetition" archetype is Teddy Darby's "Built Down On The Ground", a real beauty.  I will have to think if Charley Patton or Son House did any of that type.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on February 23, 2005, 12:16:43 PM
Hi all,
I was listening to Johnny Temple's "Lead Pencil Blues" the other day and realized that it had an example of another vocal phrasing archetype:  "The Break".  "Lead Pencil Blues" is a chorus blues, in which different phrases are sung over the first four bars, with the chorus arriving in the fifth bar, simultaneous with the IV chord, and continuing to the end of the form.  After about two or three times through the form, Johnny comes to the break which works as follows:
My baby told me this morning,she's feeling mighty blue
      | I-four beats                        |  I-four beats         |
    lead in my pencil                   just wouldn't do.
| I-four beats                     |  I-four beats              | 
    And she said,                    "Been ready all night,
|  I-four beats                    |  I-four beats              | 
   lead in your pencil, daddy,         just won't write."
|  I-four beats                       | I-four beats            | 
At this point, the IV chord and chorus return.  These 8-bar "breaks", elongating the first four bars of the 12-bar form, expand the narrative possibility in a chorus blues, which normally has only the first four bars of the form change from verse to verse.  I'm not sure, but I believe such breaks may only occur in chorus blues.  When you think about it, they happen quite a lot in later blues, like the Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters, or the songs of Willie Dixon.  I don't know where the break first showed up-- it may have been around as long as the Classic Blues of the teens and '20s and such singers as Mamie and Clara Smith. 
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 16, 2005, 11:42:27 PM
Hi all,
I was wondering if anybody could think of another 12-bar blues that follows the lyric model of Luke Jordan's "Church Bells":? No chorus, no refrain, no repetition of lyrics or lines in any of the verses.? I know of 8-bar blues in which there is no repetition of lyrics or lines, but I can't think of any other 12-bar Blues that follows Luke Jordan's model.? Can any of you think of any others like that out there?
All best,
Johnm

Edited to add:? I realized after posting this that the very last line of the song is repeated:
? ?She had the nerve to ask me would a matchbox hold my clothes.
It seems an unusual form, nonetheless.
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: dj on March 17, 2005, 03:50:03 AM
"Baby, Quit  Your Low Down Ways" by Blind Boy Fuller pretty much falls into the 12 bar, no chorus, no refrain, no repetition model.  There are some lines that repeat from verse to verse (and one repeated verse), but they're not in every verse, and to me they never seem to form a chorus or refrain.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: waxwing on April 05, 2005, 11:08:43 AM
Haven't come up with any 12 bar forms that don't have any of the criteria, John M, but was singing Tommy Johnson's Canned Heat Blues the other day and thought of this thread, since it seems to have so many different forms. Let's see,
1. AAB
2. AAB
3. AAA
4. ABC
5. ABB
6. AB(blank)
Also there is the response phrase "Canned heat, Lord, killin' me" used in several verses.
 Most interesting, I think is verse 5 with the ABB form. Any other examples of verses with the second line repeated instead of the first?
All for now.
John C.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on September 16, 2005, 11:46:47 PM
Hi all,
I was teaching Robert Wilkins's "I'll Go With Her" to a student last week and realized that it followed a phrasing pattern I have never seen used in any other blues.  It is a 12-bar blues in which the same phrase is sung twice, but unlike other blues in which this happens, like Peg Leg Howell and Eddie Anthony's "Hobo Blues", it does not fit the first singing of the phrase over the first four bars and split the repetition of the phrase over the next two four-bar phrases.  Instead, "I'll Go With Her" splits the form into two six-bar phrases, and divides the phrase and its repetition equally over the two phrases, in this fashion.  Each measure has four beats though they don't show as being the same lengths.

I'll go with her,I'll follow her, I will       to her burying place
         |       I      |         I            |IV7|     IV7             | I | I |
      I'll go with her I'll follow her, I will   to her burying place
|     V        |         V7                       |    I        |      I       |I|I|

I had known Wilkins was an innovator, but I don't think it ever registered for me before how completely this song diverges from the commonly encountered 12-bar forms.  I hesitate to call it an archetype, because I think it is one-of-a-kind.  I think Robert Wilkins was a kind of genius.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Stuart on September 17, 2005, 05:03:40 AM
John:

I completely agree with your assessment of Robert Wilkins. I would probably use the term "singular" when referring to many of his songs as well as to the man himself. If pressed to sum up the man and his music in general terms, I would probably say that "its all Robert Wilkins, yet its all different."

Stu
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on September 20, 2006, 10:03:59 AM
Hi all,
I realized yesterday that there is a 12-bar blues archetype that I don't believe we have previously identified.  It is employed by Mance Lipscomb for "Rocks and Gravel" and by John Hurt on "Monday Morning Blues".  It involves starting both of the first two four-bar phrases on the IV chord, a la:

   |      IV      |      IV      |       I      |       I      | 

   |      IV      |      IV      |       I      |       I      |

   |      V7      |      V7     |       I      |       I      |

"Monday Morning Blues" differs slightly from "Rocks And Gravel" in that the V7 bar that begins the last four-bar phrase is 6 beats long and is followed by three bars of I, the first of which is likewise six bars long.
I had noticed this type of 12-bar form previously but just figured out yesterday that what it is really like is a 16-bar blues with the first four bars (of I) removed.  Interestingly enough, when Mance Lipscomb solos on "Rocks and Gravel" he switches to a 16-bar form.  Can anyone think of other 12-bar blues that start the first two four-bar phrases on the IV chord?
All best,
Johnm

Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: GhostRider on September 20, 2006, 12:11:19 PM
John:

I've always been interested in this form of the 12 bar blues.

Two other tunes come to mind which use this form, "Willie Mae" and it's family of derivitives, by Big Bill Broonzy and "Rising River Blues" (and "Ghost Woman Blues") by George Carter.

That makes 4 out of 4 great tunes in this form (Monday Morning Blues is my favorite MJH song.)

also, how' bout "Make Me a Pallet", "Ain't No Tellin' etc? (These are 16 bars).

Alex
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on September 20, 2006, 04:34:35 PM
Those are good ones, Alex.  I had forgotten about "Rising River Blues", but it is squarely of this formal archetype.  Another one I chanced on since this morning is John Hurt's "Big Leg Blues", another great one, though he goes to a conventional 12-bar structure for his solos on that one.  I did think of "Ain't No Tellin'" and the other songs in its mold, but as you say, with a 16-bar structure, they fall in a slightly different archetype despite sharing the same first two four-bar phrases with this archetype.

Edited to add:  Later in the day, thought about "Goin' Down Slow", which is also in this category.  I think there are a ton of these and they are going to just keep turning up.

All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: skeptiktank on September 21, 2006, 09:26:42 AM
Wonderful thread. Regarding 12-bar formats that starts with IV: the rolling and tumbling family often follow this format.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Coyote Slim on March 11, 2007, 01:03:59 PM
Thanks for alerting me to the existence of this thread, John! This is what I needed!   :D
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: tenderfoot84 on March 12, 2007, 06:01:32 AM
hi waxwing,

to answer a question you posted a while back on this thread, charlie patton does sing at least on repitition blues: moon going down.

"now the smokestack is balck and the bell it shine like... bell it shine like... bell it shine like gold"

i wouldn't be surprised if he had any more but that's the only one that sprung to mind when i read your post.

i'm not sure if son house recorded any repitition blues in the same way.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 14, 2007, 03:36:47 PM
Hi all,
I realized the other day that there is a raggy Blues form that has appeared often enough over the years to be considered an archetype.  It generally works out to be 18 bars long, although the last two bars are a kind of Al Jolsonesque sort of flourish, like "I mean it, baby!"  A quick listen through Buddy Moss's three Document re-issues turned up five songs with this form:  "Daddy Don't Care", in C, "Can't Use You No More", in G,  "Tricks Ain't Walking No More", in C, "Too Dog Gone Jealous", in C, and "I'm Sitting Here Tonight", in G.  A similar listen through Volume 2 of the JSP Blind Boy Fuller recordings yielded 2 more songs of this type, "I Crave My Pigmeat", in G, and Baby, You Gotta Change Your Mind", in C. 
The form works as follows, with chords indicated for the key of G:

   |   I (G)    |    VI7 (E7)    | II7 (A7)/V7 (D7)  |    I (G)    |

   |   I (G)    |    VI7 (E7)    |     II7 (A7)   |    V7 (D7)  |

   |   I (G)    |     I7 (G7)     |    IV (C)     |  VIdim7 (Edim7)|

   |   I (G)    |     VI7 (E7)    | II7 (A7)/V7 (D7)  | I (G)/VI7 (E7)  |

   | II7 (A7)/V7 (D7) |    I (G)      |

Most often, the same line, e.g., "Pigmeat that's taken today, today, is something I do crave", is sung over the first, second and fourth four-bar phrase, with "I mean", or something like that, sung over the VI7 chord at the end of the fourth four-bar phrase, sending you into a  final re-iteration of "is something I do crave" over the last two bars of the form.  The only portion of the form that changes from verse to verse, lyrically is the third line, which also quite often goes into stop-time behind the vocal.
The portion of the form that seems most subject to different interpretation by different players is the chord chosen for the last bar of the third four-bar phrase, which in the songs I listened to was done variously as IV minor, flat VI, #IV, and I, flatIII, or VI dim7 (the last three are constructed with the same notes, but have a different note in the bass). 
I don't know if I have ever heard an old recording of a Country Blues musician playing this progression in any positions other than G or C in standard tuning, but both D and F in standard tuning would work out really well without too much difficulty and could be a way to carve out an original sound using a tried and true Blues progression to make something of your own.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Coyote Slim on March 14, 2007, 08:43:44 PM
John we must have some type of psychic connection because when you posted that I was listening to Blind Boy Fuller's "Baby You Got to Change Your Mind" and thinking about the structure.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 14, 2007, 10:34:55 PM
That's cool, Slim.  It's a neat progression and very catchy, every time out of the box--a lot of fun to play, too.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on March 15, 2007, 01:06:00 PM
Hi all

Blind Boy Fuller seems to have quite a few of these 18-bar rag things. One that I think is slightly different is "Piccolo Rag". The A -part is the 18-bar rag exactly as John describes , but the song has also an 8-bar bridge:

[| III7 | % | VI7 | % |

|  II7  |  % |  V7 | % |]

This is what has become to be known as the "rhythm bridge" among jazz players (since it appeared in  George Gershwins' "I Got Rhythm"), and I have seldom heard it played exactly like this in blues. Can you think of another CB song with this bridge? The only song that I can think of is Sonny Boy Williamsons IIs' postwar song "Peach Tree".

Fuller also scat sings during the bridge of Piccolo Rag, and plays the strings behind the nut (!), and generally creates quite a show! :D

I learned the song a long time ago from an old S. Grossman book, where it was noted in C. The recording however sounds in B flat. I originally thought Fuller was tuned down a whole-step, but I now have a sneaking suspicion that it might actually be played out of the G position capoed up to the 3rd fret. Any thoughts on this would be welcome!

Cheers

Pan

Edited to correct: as Mr. Mando and Uncle Bud pont out, the strings are being played behind the bridge, not the nut, during the break in the B-part.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 15, 2007, 01:36:56 PM
Hi Pan,
That's a good find, "Piccolo Rag".  I listened to the recording and Fuller is indeed playing out of C position, sounding in B flat.  By glancing at the list of Fuller's keys/positions compiled by John Cowan in the Keys to The Highway section on the site, I was able to see that the song recorded by Fuller immediately prior to "Piccolo Rag" sounded a half-step lower than the position it was played in, and the two tunes following "Piccolo Rag" each sounded a full-step lower than the position they were played in, like "Piccolo Rag".  So, I guess, for whatever reason, Blind Boy Fuller ended up tuned a full step low in standard on that day in the studio.  Some musicians, like Furry Lewis and Robert Wilkins, did that quite a lot, but I didn't know that Fuller ever did it.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: GhostRider on March 15, 2007, 01:50:31 PM
Hi:

I wouldn't be allowed to mention Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" would I?

Alex
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on March 15, 2007, 03:22:24 PM
Hi John

Thanks for the clarification.

I had completely missed John C's excellent article on BBF guitar keys. I must remember to visit the Keys to the highways section more often!

Pan
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: mr mando on March 16, 2007, 02:57:22 AM

Can you think of another CB song with this bridge?

Fuller also scat sings during the bridge of Piccolo Rag, and plays the strings behind the nut (!), and generally creates quite a show!

Shake it, Baby by BBF has a similar bridge with the same structure. As for playing the strings behind the nut, I rather believe he plays them between the bridge and the tailpiece of his duolian in the case of Piccolo (and Shake it Baby).
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: mr mando on March 16, 2007, 03:27:22 AM
Great thread!
While I was reading thtough it, I noticed that there is a form that's not covered so far. It's a 12 bar structure, but not with a AAB (or AAA) form in the lyrics but with an ABAB form instead. The earliest example I can think of is Son House's "My Black Mama", the most famous is probably Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues". I guess Muddy Waters used the same form too. Maybe some of all you knowledgable folks can think of other examples.
Actually, this might be the precursor of what johnm calls chorus blues, as the first four bars are just as full of lyrics as in a "chorus blues". But then, from bar 5 onwards, there's no chorus but the two lines are repeated, with fills over the I chord. Below is verse 3 of Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues" as an example. I hope the phrasing of the vocal lines is more or less correct, I did this from memory, haven't played or sung this tune for years.

  People tell me       walkin' blues ain't bad   Worst old feeling   I most ever had  People
|            I          |              I               |            I           |              I                  |
 tell me          the old walkin' blues ain't bad                               well it's the
|           IV7        |             IV7            |            I           |              I                  | 
 worst old feeling,       Lord, I most ever had
|          V7          |            V7              |            I           |              I                  |

Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on March 16, 2007, 07:05:56 AM

Can you think of another CB song with this bridge?

Fuller also scat sings during the bridge of Piccolo Rag, and plays the strings behind the nut (!), and generally creates quite a show!

Shake it, Baby by BBF has a similar bridge with the same structure. As for playing the strings behind the nut, I rather believe he plays them between the bridge and the tailpiece of his duolian in the case of Piccolo (and Shake it Baby).

I agree, with mr. mando. Fuller definitely does this trick behind the bridge. McTell does it too.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on March 16, 2007, 07:46:01 AM

Can you think of another CB song with this bridge?

Fuller also scat sings during the bridge of Piccolo Rag, and plays the strings behind the nut (!), and generally creates quite a show!

Shake it, Baby by BBF has a similar bridge with the same structure. As for playing the strings behind the nut, I rather believe he plays them between the bridge and the tailpiece of his duolian in the case of Piccolo (and Shake it Baby).

I agree, with mr. mando. Fuller definitely does this trick behind the bridge. McTell does it too.


Hey Mr. Mando and Uncle Bud. You are of course absolutely right! As you might have guessed I have a pin-bridge... :).

Pan
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on March 16, 2007, 08:31:50 AM
I just remembered another form that has not yet been discussed here, if I?m not mistaken. On ?See See Rider? from  ?An Evening with Big Bill Broonzy?-LP (a 1956 live album in Copenhague), Broonzy sort of extends the AAB / 12 bar form into an  ?AAAB / 16? bars, by repeating the 2nd A-part (with IV and I chords) again, before moving to the B-part (with the V chord).

I don't know how to make the lyrics spacings stick, so I'll just have to content to write the chords and lyrics separately. Darn! Maybe I'll learn how to type one day.  >:(

See See Rider,see what you done done,
See See Rider,you see what you done done,
See, see rider,you see what you done done, you have
made me love you, now your man done come.

[| I   | I   | I   | I7    |

| IV   | IV | I   | I(7)  |

| IV   |IV  | I   |    I   |

| V(7)| IV | I   |  I    |]

I think this is a neat way to add a little element of surprise into the song structure, and I have occasionally tried it myself. :)

I wonder if you know other examples of this form?

The LP appears to be released as two CDs with additional material (the original LP is only from track 6 to the end of the 2nd CD!). You can just hear the first three ?A?s of the first chorus on the sound clip on: http://www.amazon.com/Evening-Big-Bill-Broonzy-Vol/dp/B0000022HH . Broonzy plays out of C position in standard tuning.

Pan

Edited to correct: what I'm describing here is just a standard 16-bar blues form; see Johnms' post below.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 16, 2007, 09:42:19 AM
Hi Pan,
The Broonzy "See See Rider" form sounds like a standard 16-bar blues like Lemon's "One Dime Blues" or "Wartime Blues".  Mance Lipscomb did "See See Rider" in the same fashion on his first Arhoolie record, but called it "Goin' To Lousiana".  It is cool when the movement to the IV chord is repeated.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on April 26, 2007, 12:21:01 AM
Hi all,
I recently picked up a used copy of the "The Essential Bill Gaither", one of the two-CD sets put out by Document.  I have had little previous experience with Gaither's recordings, and it's been nice getting familiar with his sound.  One of the songs on the set particularly caught my attention, for it employs a phrasing scheme I've not previous encountered.  Though the lyric scheme is AAB and the form is metrically consistent, Gaithers runs his opening lines unusually long in a way I've never heard done before, as follows (all meaures have four beats):

I'm gonna quit

worryin', I'm gon' stop grievin', 'cause this bad luck will change some day.  I'm gonna quit
|           I                  |      IV                   |           I                       |          I             |
worryin', gonna stop grievin',  this bad luck will change some day
|           IV             |        IV        |         I                         |        I               |
   Though it's hard to walk in that straight and narrow way
|       V                                    |             V            |            I        |          I            |

"Bad Luck Child" is unusual for an AAB blues in that it allows so little time for an instrumental response at the tail end of the two opening lines.  In a 12-bar AAB form, the vocal lines are generally concluded around the end of the first beat in the third measure of each four-bar phrase.  "Bad Luck Child" runs all the way through the first beat of the fourth bar of the first two four-bar phrases.  This is rare enough that I think it would be difficult to figure out how the words were phrased without hearing the recording first.
As I said, I've never encountered this particular kind of phrasing before, but Gaither seems like a popularizer rather than an innovator, so it's likely that it appeared elsewhere first.  Is anybody aware of an earlier recording (most probably by Leroy Carr) that employed this phrasing scheme?  Thanks for any help locating such a song.
all best,
Johnm 
                         
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: MTJ3 on April 26, 2007, 07:40:43 PM
Johnm, If I understand you correctly, there are a number of what I have been calling, for lack of a better description or erudition or imagination on my part, "run on" 12 bar blues in the vocal mold of Gaither's "Bad Luck Child."  The only artist that occurs to me off the top of my head who recorded these is Big Maceo (and you are absolutely right to think that Gaither, steeped in Carr as he was, might have picked it up from one of Leroy's recordings, but I can't recall any such Carr recordings).  In fact, Maceo recorded one such "run on" 12 bar blues in 1945 (in fact, I do recall that he recorded several), entitled "Kid Man Blues," in which he plays the V chord in the second measure, which gives you a real head fake because you expect to hear an 8 bar blues, but it flows on into 12 bars.  Are you aware of those changes in any other songs?  I certainly can't think of any.  In any case, I'll check to see if I have any notes on this (I think I do, but finding them is another thing) and let you know.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on April 26, 2007, 10:34:32 PM
Thanks very much for your message, MTJ3.  I was particularly hoping to hear from you on this question because of your knowledge of Leroy Carr's repertoire--my own is pretty sketchy.  I will see if I can get the Bill Gaither cut on the Juke.  The melody is particularly distinctive and pretty, and I have the feeling that it pre-exists Gaither's lyrics and is the driving force behind the phrasing scheme.  "Run-on" phrasing is pretty much how I would think of it, too.  When I first listened to the track, and Bill Gaither kept going after I expected him to stop, I felt sort of like, "What's going on here?".  I know Big Maceo's material less than I know Carr's and so will be interested to hear what you turn up.
Incidentally, the pianist on many of Gaither's tracks, Honey Hill, was an absolute ace, really kind of a perfect musician in taste, conception and execution.  He's one of these guys like the present-day Jazz pianist Hank Jones or the late Wynton Kelly who sounds like he never played a wrong note in his life--and it's not from playing it safe.  How do you do that?
all best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: MTJ3 on May 12, 2007, 03:07:24 PM
Johnm,  Since your post on Gaither, I have been away from home and, thus, unable to respond adequately re Carr.  Here are my thoughts in greater detail.

1.   Some time ago, in response to a request, I posted the lyrics for "When The Sun Goes Down" and made a perfunctory comment on what I considered to be the genius of the phrasing.  I had originally intended to revisit that, but it slipped my mind until you refreshed my recollection.  In the Blackwell-Carr collected works, it is the only run-on AAB 12 bar blues (if you will allow it as an AAB form notwithstanding (a) the phrase repetition in B--"when the sun goes down"--that elongates the phrasing through the 11th and part of the 12th bars, and (b) the slight harmonic divergence from the "pure" 12 bar form).  In fact, except for the 7th and 12 bars, it is almost a "pure" run-on, considering the way Carr phrases the beginning of the B line in the 8th bar.  With apologies, as I don't seem to be able to sync what I have keyed in and what is shown in the preview pane with the final as far as the measure breaks go, here is my breakdown of the song:

          /           I       /     V7 /       I                                    /
In the evening, in the evening, mama, when the sun goes down
I7       /   IV    /    IV                                   /        I-V7     /        I   
In the evening, baby, when the sun goes down
                 /  V7
Well, ain't it lonesome, ain't it lonesome, babe,
/ V7
When your lover's not around
/     I-V7              /  I
When the sun goes down.

/    I                    /  V7      /      I                         /  I7
Last night I layed a sleeping, I was thinking to myself
       /      IV                     /   IV                          /    I-V7 /   I
Last night I layed a sleeping, I was thinking to myself
                            /  V7
Well, wondering and thinking why the one that you love
/                        V7                  /   
Will mistreat you for someone else
             I-V7        /  I
When the sun goes down.

/              I          / V7   /   I                              /  I7
The sun rises in the east, and it sets up in the west.
      /    IV                              /  IV                         / I-V7   /   I
The sun rises in the east, mama, and it sets in the west.
             /     V7
Well, it's hard to tell, hard to tell
/      V7                                  /
Which one will treat you the best
      I-V7                       /     I       
When the sun goes down.

[Scat verse]

/      I                                /V9(!)/   I                        /  I7
Goodbye old sweethearts and pals, yes, I 'm going away,
      /  IV                                     /  IV                    /  I-V7/  I
But I may be back to see you again, some old rainy day.
           /              V7                                     
Well, in the evening, in the evening, babe,
/  V7
When the sun goes down.
/  I-V7       /  I
When the sun goes down.


N.B.  In the second and third verses, which follow this form, he does not repeat any phrases in the first line.  In the scat verse, he reverts to a "pure" AAB 12 bar form, and in the final verse, it is an A1A2B form (where the second A doesn't repeat the first, which one often finds, in shorter phrases, in blues forms having a refrain--see below).

In an unpublished interview, Scrapper said something to the effect that others could fit 5 words into a line, but Leroy could fit 7; I think that what we see in this song must have been what he was referring to. 

In my prior post on this topic, I asked if anyone knew of a 12 bar blues with the V chord in the second bar as in Big Maceo's "Kid Man Blues."  I have answered my own question.  But Carr's piece doesn't give you the same head fake that Big Maceo's does.

2.   The first verse of "Hard Times Done Drove Me To Drink" is in a run-on form, but there is what I think you call a "stutter" (a phrase repetition) in the first A, which is what usually enables the singer to elongate the first A to "swallow" bars 3 and 4.  (Consider, say, the example of Snooks Eaglin's "Mean Old Frisco," which I attempt to quote from memory and which, therefore, is probably not spot on: "Well, that mean old, mean old Frisco and that dirty Santa Fe/Well, that mean old Frisco and that dirty Santa Fe."  The underlined words are, obviously, the "stutter" or phrase repetition.)  You also find that phrase repetition used to create a run-on 12 bar blues in Carr's "Church House Blues" and Blackwell's "Motherless Boy Blues," which are in the same tune family with each other. 

3.   Apart from the foregoing, perhaps the closest Carr did to a run-on AAB 12 bar blues is his version of "Black Gal," which probably falls outside that form because of the rubato semi-falsetto passages; this may be the only 12 bar blues form (loosely speaking) he recorded where he was consistently and seriously fuera de compas

4.   Of course, there are a number of other non-AAB blues that they recorded that are of the run-on variety.  Most interesting to me in that regard are "Papa's Got Your Water On" and "You Can't Run My Business;" they have an a1a2BB form (wherein a1 and a2 have the same rhyme and occupy the first 4 bars of the song); I think you have been calling that, or something like it, a "chorus form."   

5.   "Hold Them Puppies" (in the "Corrina" tune family) doesn't exactly fit the AAB run-on pattern, but it does feature elongated verses without phrase repetition, which gives something of the effect of being a run-on pattern.
 
BTW, Johnm, a really stimulating topic as usual.  Exceptionally stimluating.  And Hill was an absolutely terrific pianist.  I have often thought that there was a bit of an inverse instrumental relationship between Blackwell-Carr, on the one hand, and Gaither-Hill, on the other, and that even if you're not wild about Gaither (but anyone interested in pre-War blues should, IMHO, be familiar with him considering how much he recorded and, therefore, how much the record companies must have perceived the blues listening public to have appreciated his work), you can listen to Gaither's early work for Hill.  In any case, more on Gaither-Hill anon.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on May 12, 2007, 10:59:17 PM
Thanks very much for your post, MTJ3, there's an awful lot there to chew on.  A couple of thoughts occurred to me as I read it, or have been running around in my head since I last posted about Bill Gaither.
   * I was thinking this past week, after posting about the Bill Gaither song, "Bad Luck Child", that another song that employed run-on phrasing, at least in the initial singing of it's "A" lines, is Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain".  What's interesting is that in the repetition of the "A" line, Johnson phrases conventionally, and the very same words end up concluding on the downbeat of the third measure of the second four-bar phrase, rather than the downbeat of the fourth measure, as they do in the first four-bar phrase.  Then there is Johnson's unusual little final refrain, "All my love's in vain", which is sung over the turn-around in the eleventh bar of the form.  Taken as a whole, a very unusual version of the 12-bar form, I thought.  As soon as I began to read your post, I realized that "Love In Vain" almost exactly follows the phrasing scheme (and melody) of "When The Sun Goes Down", even to the extent of a refrain ("when the sun goes down") sung over the turn-around in the eleventh bar.  I have long been aware of Robert Johnson's indebtedness to Scrapper Blackwell for his approach to accompanying himself in A position in standard tuning, but I never fully realized that Johnson owed an equal debt to Leroy Carr's sense of phrasing and vocal styling.
   * I suspect that much of Leroy Carr's ability to sing 7 words in a line versus everyone else's 5 words per line, as per Scrapper's comment, was due to Leroy's exceptionally relaxed and conversational phrasing.  We tend not to think of Leroy as being an intense groover in his singing, but if you look at how his lines scanned relative to the underlying pulse and form breaks, his phrasing was of extreme subtlety, especially on the compressed 8-bar form, as in "How Long".  The way he could sound perfectly natural phrasing across bar lines and the underlying chord changes was absolutely masterful.
    * In listening to the Bill Gaither material where he was backed by Honey Hill, I found myself thinking that in the stage of blues evolution that immediately followed that recording era, the introduction of the electric guitar was actually a necessary corrective in keeping the music from becoming utterly piano dominated.  The pianists had become so skillful and were operating from such an innate advantage vis a vis the acoustic guitar, in terms of being able to play louder, generate more bass, play more florid runs, and handle more complex harmonies, so that even very skillful guitarists specializing in playing with pianists, like Scrapper and Bill Broonzy found themselves being painted into an exceptionally small corner in terms of what they could do on their instruments and still be musically effective or simply audible.  The electric guitar addressed the foremost shortcoming of the acoustic guitar when playing with a piano, rapid decay time, and gave the guitar some sustain (particularly when played with a slide), and allowed guitarists a chance to sing on the instrument again.  What a luxury to be able to turn up an amp rather than just dig in and play harder, too!  I don't think it is any coincidence that with few exceptions, the best Country Blues piano/guitar duets happened when the guitarist in the duo was a stronger and more extroverted player than the pianist.
All best,
Johnm     
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: blueshome on May 16, 2007, 10:51:32 AM
Looking at songs with repeated "tags", one which comes to mind is Bukka White's Sleepy Man Blues which uses the melody of Leroy Carr's In the Evening.

Another, but repeating phrases mostly from the th "A" lines of the 12 bar is Willie McTell's Drive Away Blues.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: MTJ3 on May 26, 2007, 09:06:30 AM
   * I was thinking this past week, after posting about the Bill Gaither song, "Bad Luck Child", that another song that employed run-on phrasing, at least in the initial singing of it's "A" lines, is Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain".  What's interesting is that in the repetition of the "A" line, Johnson phrases conventionally, and the very same words end up concluding on the downbeat of the third measure of the second four-bar phrase, rather than the downbeat of the fourth measure, as they do in the first four-bar phrase.  Then there is Johnson's unusual little final refrain, "All my love's in vain", which is sung over the turn-around in the eleventh bar of the form.  Taken as a whole, a very unusual version of the 12-bar form, I thought.  As soon as I began to read your post, I realized that "Love In Vain" almost exactly follows the phrasing scheme (and melody) of "When The Sun Goes Down", even to the extent of a refrain ("when the sun goes down") sung over the turn-around in the eleventh bar.  I have long been aware of Robert Johnson's indebtedness to Scrapper Blackwell for his approach to accompanying himself in A position in standard tuning, but I never fully realized that Johnson owed an equal debt to Leroy Carr's sense of phrasing and vocal styling.
  .......In listening to the Bill Gaither material where he was backed by Honey Hill, I found myself thinking that in the stage of blues evolution that immediately followed that recording era, the introduction of the electric guitar was actually a necessary corrective in keeping the music from becoming utterly piano dominated.  The pianists had become so skillful and were operating from such an innate advantage vis a vis the acoustic guitar, in terms of being able to play louder, generate more bass, play more florid runs, and handle more complex harmonies, that even very skillful guitarists specializing in playing with pianists, like Scrapper and Bill Broonzy found themselves being painted into an exceptionally small corner in terms of what they could do on their instruments and still be musically effective or simply audible.  The electric guitar addressed the foremost shortcoming of the acoustic guitar when playing with a piano, rapid decay time, and gave the guitar some sustain (particularly when played with a slide), and allowed guitarists a chance to sing on the instrument again.  What a luxury to be able to turn up an amp rather than just dig in and play harder, too!  I don't think it is any coincidence that with few exceptions, the best Country Blues piano/guitar duets happened when the guitarist in the duo was a stronger and more extroverted player than the pianist.

1.  Of course, we can't demonstrate (or at least I don't think that I can) that Johnson's playing in A was derived from Blackwell's, but I don't think anyone could convince me otherwise.  A few years back, I had a brief moment of feeling that I had been an exemplary parent when my then already adult daughter, who never exhibited any particular interest in blues, called me and, without greeting, announced indignantly that Robert Johnson had ripped off Leroy Carr.  She had heard "Love in Vain" and immediately recognized it as being derivative of "In the Evening."  Of course, one of the challenges in this sort of thing is finding something that is not somehow derivative, and one must also recognize that Johnson didn't exactly get rich and famous from it.

By way of comparison, here is what Johnson did in terms of phrasing in that form (Take 2 with the "moaning" verse omitted):

           /              I              /     I7   /  I7
And I followed her to the station with my suitcase in my hand.
/I7      /  IV                                   /  IV                                    /I7-V7/ I 
And I followed her to the station with a suitcase in my hand.
               /  II7                                   / V7
Well, it's hard to tell, it's hard to tell when all your love's in vain.
/ I                                / (I)-V7
All your love's in vain.

       /              I                  /   I7      /   I7                                     /  I7
The train pulled up to the station, and I looked her in the eye.
                /                   IV                       /               IV                        / I7-V7/  I
When the train rolled up to the station, and I looked her in the eye.
                  /               II7                             /  V7
Well, I felt lonesome, I was so lonesome, and I could not help but cry.
/     I                            /  (I)-V7
All my love's in vain.

                /       I               /   I7      /    I7                               /  I7
When the train it left the station with two lights on behind.
                /           IV                     /     IV                               /  I7-V7/  I     
When the train it left the station with two lights on behind.
               /            II7                        /    V7
Well, the blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind.
/  I                             /  (I)-V7
All my love's in vain.


Of course, it's a beautiful performance on several levels, but it lacks Carr's "free" phrasing, which I think makes his performance so remarkable. 

There are a few other Carr touches in Johnson's work that would be interesting to itemize at some point.

2.  As to the inverse accompaniment relationship, that's a very good observation.  I can't tell whether it was poorly recorded or whether this supports your point, but Blackwell's performance on "Texas Stomp" is definitely overshadowed by the piano playing of Dot Rice (about whom he said, "She was really something," and she was).  Could his playing stand up?  Was it a question of tempo?  Based on his playing on "Non-Skid Tread," I think the answers to those questions are probably "I think so" and "no," respectively.

Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: blueshome on May 28, 2007, 11:43:26 AM
The talk of Leroy Carr et al led me to his Christmas Day Blues which has a standard 12 bar AAB form with the addition of a beautifully phrased little chorus after each verse:

"Jail on Christmas day again: ain't that a pain,
           Oh baby,baby baby, ain't that a pain"

I'm not aware of any other blues with this type of chorus.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: dj on August 05, 2007, 01:01:01 PM
It struck me yesterday that the melody and general phrasing scheme of Bill Gaither's "Bad Luck Child" are adapted from Leroy Carr's version of "Black Gal (What Makes Your Head So Hard?)".  MTJ3 mentioned Carr's version of the song without, I think, making the explicit connection.  Pullum's original lengthened the first line of each verse by repeating the phrase "Black gal": i.e. "Black gal, black gal, what makes your head so hard?" , and lengthened the second line of the verse by lengthening the phrase: "Bla-a-ack gal, what makes your head so hard?".  Carr's version uses the repetition of "Black gal" to lengthen both of the first two lines.  Gaither took Carr's melodic material, fitted it with new words, and lengthened the lines by inserting a new phrase, rather than repeating one.  Carr had used this technique several times, but only to lengthen the first line in a verse, never the first two, with one recorded exception.  That exception was "Church House Blues", which uses a different melody than does "Bad Luck Child", but uses the same lyric template - inserting a second phrase to lengthen each of the first two lines of a phrase.  It's interesting that "Church House Blues" was never issued by Vocalion.    One wonders if Gaither's "Bad Luck Child" was influenced by several Leroy Carr records or by something Gaither heard Carr do in performance.                   
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on August 08, 2007, 03:15:46 PM
Thanks for unraveling some of these threads of influence, dj.  This is fascinating stuff, and illustrates how helpful it is to have a musician's entire recorded output when trying to locate/identify musical precursors.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: MTJ3 on August 08, 2007, 06:55:33 PM
MTJ3 mentioned Carr's version of the song without, I think, making the explicit connection.                

dj,

Indeed, I made no explicit connection in my comment.  If one listens to Gaither even casually, and you have obviously listened quite intently, one hears that he is absolutely drenched in Carr's influence.

Also, you make a good point that, given the relative abundance of unissued sides, test pressings, etc. now available, it is imperative to know whether a cut was issued before concluding that the "recorded version" influenced someone else.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on October 22, 2007, 08:05:18 PM
Hi all,
Mike Seeger does a song, "Riley and Spencer", on his new CD, "Early Southern Guitar Sounds", that I believe is a blues phrasing archetype that has not previously been noted here.  He came by the song from Fields Ward, a Galax, Virginia-based musician related to the great banjo player and fiddler, Wade Ward.  Riley and Spencer are (were?) two towns in West Virginia. I first heard this song performed by the great harmonica player and songwriter Mark Graham.
Mike Seeger plays the song out of A position in standard tuning, and the song is a 12-bar blues, but not of a type I've ever encountered before.  The form works out as follows:

   |    A    |    A    |    A    |    A    |

   |   E7    |   E7    |    A    |    A    |

   |   E7    |   E7    |    A    |    A    |

The song's lyrics mirror its chordal structure, following an ABB phrasing pattern, with the repetition of the B line most often slightly shortened .  It took me a bit to figure out that the form is like a conventional 12-bar form, but with the third 4-bar phrase played twice and substituted for the normal second 4-bar phrase that moves to the IV chord and back to I.  It's not a wild innovation, but it is certainly effective as used here.
In the notes to the CD, Mike Seeger says of the lyrics, "To me, it's the ultimate alcoholic's boast/lament."  I would just add that these are great lyrics and really capture a particular kind of hard-assed intransigence.  The last verse is really a beauty.

   Riley and Spencer burning down
   Lord, there ain't no liquor in town
   Ain't no more liquor in town

   What-a you gonna do to wet them lips
   When this whole darn world goes dry
   Whole darn world goes dry

   I've been all around, Lord, this whole wide world
   I've been down to Memphis, Tennessee
   Been down to Memphis, Tennessee

   I played cards, the king and the queen,
   Shot them dice with old Jesse James
   Dice with old Jesse James

   I can eat more chicken than any gal can fry
   Lord, I can tell more low-down lies
   Tell more low-down lies

   Tell more lies than the stars in the skies
   Honey baby, my time ain't long
   Honey baby, my time ain't long

   I could never love but one little gal
   Lord, I'm sorry I ever loved her
   Sorry I ever loved her

   She caused me to weep, she caused me to mourn
   Lord, she took my liquor from me
   Took my liquor from me
   
   Now I pawn my shoes for a bottle of booze
   Lord, I drink it, I'll lay down and die
   Drink it, I'll lay down and die

   You can stomp down them flowers all around my grave
   But they rise and bloom again
   Rise and bloom again

All best,
John

   

   

   
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: banjochris on October 22, 2007, 10:23:07 PM
And "Riley and Spencer" is essentially the same song as Blind Boy Fuller's "Lost Lover Blues," although Fuller goes to the IV chord. On the Virginia Traditions: Non Blues Secular Black Music, there's also a nice version by Marvin Foddrell that he calls "Reno Factory."
Chris
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: dj on February 22, 2008, 07:20:49 AM
I recently picked up a copy of Volume 2 of Bill Gaither's complete recorded works to fill out my Gaither collection.  This disk contains "New Bad Luck Child", a remake of "Bad Luck Child".  It's interesting to compare the new version of the song with the original.  In both versions of the song, Gaither has lengthened the first two lines of every verse except the second verse, where the first two lines are of "normal" length.  This would seem to imply that the song had a set structure, and that set structure included shorter vocal lines in the second verse.  Was this Gaither's means of "showing off" - pointing out that he knew the standard vocal form and was consciously altering it, and drawing the listener's attention to that fact

The fact that Gaither made a "New" version would seem to imply that the original sold at least moderately well.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on February 22, 2008, 05:37:24 PM
Thanks for posting re Bill Gaithers phrasing in the remake of "Bad Luck Child", dj.  It's kind of amazing that he employed the very same phrasing scheme as in the original, even to the point of diverging from the song's characteristic phrasing in the same verse.  It's hard to know what, if anything, to make of that.
All best,
Johnm 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 18, 2012, 08:48:05 PM
Hi all,
I was listening to the Big Bill Broonzy/Georgia Tom song, "Eagle Ridin' Papa" today and realized it employs a phrasing archetype not previously discussed here, the 32-bar Pop Blues with refrain.  It's designated a Pop Blues by virtue of having a 32-bar AABA form employing four 8-bar phrases, the form most commonly used for Pop songs in the period roughly from 1910--1960.  The way that the lyrics phrase in the "A" phrases is much as they do in the first eight bars of a 12-bar chorus blues, with lyrics going right over the first four bars, the refrain falling in the fifth and sixth bars and the seventh and eight bars being an instrumental fill, like so:

   Listen everybody from here and far, If you want to know just who we are,
   |             I                  |  bVI           |             I                       |     VI            |
   Eagle ridin' papas,  from Tennessee
   |        II               |      V7         |           I                   |            V7                |

The second A phrases in exactly the same fashion, and differs from the first A only insofar as it goes to a I7 chord in it's last measure, in preparation for the bridge, which starts on the IV7 chord.  The bridge goes like so:

All night long,          We sing this song,     If you get this
   I7      |    IV7    |      IV7         |     I     |       I7           |
             song,         You can't go  wrong, and how
             |     IV7    |      IV7        |   II7         |    V7         |

The final A utilizes the same phrasing scheme as did the first two A parts. 

It seems most likely that the composition was Georgia Tom's (Thomas Dorsey's).  In the version of it on the old Yazoo LP, "The Young Big Bill Broonzy", Georgia Tom has the flatVI chord in the second bar of the A phrases all to himself, for neither Big Bill nor Frank Brasswell, on backing guitar, ever either play the chord or play to the chord change.  It's too bad, because it's such a nifty change, but the song and performance are great in any event.

I suspect that there are more of these 32-bar Pop Blues with refrains out there.  Bo Carter's "Let's Get Drunk Again" almost fills the bill, but Bo repeats the entire lyric in his A parts intact as he passes through the form, so it's not the same as "Eagle Ridin' Papa", which has constantly changing lyrics at the front end of each A part and the refrain at the tail end.  "Eagle Ridin' Papa" is a hell of a catchy tune, and it seems as though it's formal elegance and naturalness is something that other musicians would have noted and copied.  As far as that goes, knowing how the form is constructed should make it easier to write another song with the same approach.  Any takers?
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on January 19, 2012, 02:50:47 AM
Johnm's post made me look for a YouTube video. Here it is:

Big Bill Broonzie - Eagle Ridin' Papa.wmv (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjM0LluEOHY#)

Catchy tune indeed!

Cheers

Pan
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: banjochris on January 19, 2012, 08:49:27 AM
And this has nothing to do with the form of it, but the early Western swing group the Light Crust Doughboys used a version of "Eagle Ridin' Papa" for their theme song, with the chorus "We're the Light Crust Doughboys from Burrus Mill!" -- there's a recording of it on that old Columbia Roots N' Blues Retrospective box set.
Chris
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: uncle bud on January 20, 2012, 09:00:19 AM

It seems most likely that the composition was Georgia Tom's (Thomas Dorsey's).

Yes, and Georgia Tom recorded it the year before in 1929 with a different guitar player known only as "Jones ?" to B&GR and the discographical info on Georgia Tom Vol 1. Anyone know if he's since been identified? The session was in Richmond, Indiana, not Chicago like the majority of Georgia Tom's early recordings found on Vol 1. There is a later Richmond session in 1930 that has Scrapper Blackwell on guitar.

Quote
I suspect that there are more of these 32-bar Pop Blues with refrains out there. 

Georgia Tom liked it, since the song recorded right after "Eagle Ridin' Papa" on that July 1929 session, "Rollin' Mill Stomp", uses the same form (though not the nifty flat VI). Attached for reference.

[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on January 20, 2012, 09:44:37 AM
Hi all,
Thanks very much for attaching that "Rolling Mill Stomp", uncle bud.  Ask and ye shall find, I guess! 

It is interesting that while "Rolling Mill Stomp" is definitely a Pop Blues 32-bar with refrain, it does include new and different structural wrinkles.  Instead of being AABA in its form, it is more like AAB1B2, since the final 8-bar phrase is a repetition of the third 8-bar phrase, but with a different ending. 

Lyrically, the song is a different model, too.  The B sections operate as a chorus, repeating intact with every pass through the form, whereas the refrain in the A parts changes every time you pass through the form.

Looking at the ease with which Tomas Dorsey handled both the compositional and lyric materials of the blues, it's not surprising how expertly he adjusted to the similar demands of Gospel Music, which he moved on to after retiring from blues playing.
All best,
John
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on October 03, 2012, 06:25:13 PM
Hi all,
Every once in a while, I realize that a song I've known for some time employs a different phrasing archetype than any I've previously encountered.  One song that falls into this category is John Hurt's "Monday Morning Blues".  It is a 12-bar blues (though with two six-beat measures in the last four-bar phrase), and the way its verses work is something I've not seen before.  Whereas many or most 12-bar blues use an AAB phrasing of the lyric, for "Monday Morning Blues", John Hurt uses a sort of truncated version of the A lyric idea over each of the first two four-bar phrases; the truncated A idea is short, and takes only one bar to elapse.  For the third four-bar phrase, John Hurt sings the A lyric idea in full.  It works out like so, assuming four beats per measure unless otherwise indicated.  Note too, that "Monday Morning Blues" is one of those blues in which the first two four-bar phrases start on the IV chord, so it has that additional wrinkle.

I woke up this morning                                                                              I woke
          |        IV              |           IV             |            I             |           I                 |
           up this morning                                                                               I woke
          |        IV              |           IV             |            I              |          I                  |
           up this morning with the Monday morning blues 
          |       V (6 beats)                          |  I (6 beats)     |         I           |        I            |

All of the subsequent verses conform to this phrasing model exactly.  Perhaps one reason the song has such an epic quality in the narrative sense is that it takes so long to get where it is going; instead of having a neat little tension/resolution pay-off in each verse as in the AAB verse format, "Monday Morning Blues" requires an entire verse just to complete the A idea in the verse.  Much credit to John Hurt for coming up with this original approach.  It's a neat idea, and plays out particularly well in the playing and singing of the song.

All best,
Johnm
 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Rivers on October 03, 2012, 08:44:01 PM
You have a knack of landing on things I've half-thought for ages but have been unable to articulate, Johnm.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: frailer24 on October 03, 2012, 08:48:10 PM
I find that the one-chord "drone" blues a la Charlie Patton's "Mississippi Bo Weavil" is extremely odd in regards to phrasing. I'd outline an example myself if I was any good at such a thing. P.S. I also find one chord numbers a bit more challenging in spite of apparent simplicity.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: colm kill paul on October 04, 2012, 12:51:09 AM
Quote
Perhaps one reason the song has such an epic quality in the narrative sense is that it takes so long to get where it is going; instead of having a neat little tension/resolution pay-off in each verse as in the AAB verse format, "Monday Morning Blues" requires an entire verse just to complete the A idea in the verse.
"True wit is nature to advantage dressed,

What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed".

John thanks for sharing this insight. It is inspiring!

Colm


Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on February 27, 2013, 10:38:36 PM
Hi all,
I realized recently that in two of John Hurt's songs, he begins the song with a full pick-up measure.  This is quite unusual--there are many, many songs which begin with one or two pick-up beats leading into the downbeat of the form, but to have a full measure of pick-up is something I can't remember having encountered very often.
The two songs are "Coffee Blues" and "Spike Driver's Blues".  "Coffee Blues" is an 8-bar blues, and is usually shown when transcribed like so:

   |    A    |    D    |    D    |    A    |

   |    A    |    E    |    E     |    A    |

When you think of the lyrics, though, in the opening line, "I got to go to Memphis, from there to Leland . . ..", the downbeat of the form falls on the first syllable of "Memphis", which coincides with the arrival of the IV chord, D.  Re-analyzed in this light, the form looks much more regular:

   |    D    |    D    |    A    |    A    |

   |    E    |    E    |    A    |    A    |
In this phrasing set-up, the last bar of the form is used to provide the vocal pick-ups for the next verse.

Similarly, the form of "Spike Driver's Blues" would normally be shown like so.  It is a 10-bar blues (not many of those out there!).

    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    C bass |

    |  C bass |   G    |    G7  |   G7      |

    |    G     |     G     |

If you think of the opening verse, though, "This is the hammer that killed John Henry . . . . ", the downbeat of the form coincides with the first syllable of "hammer", which is the downbeat of what has been shown as the second measure above.  Re-adjusting the form to reflect that, we end up with the following:

   |    G    |    G    |    C bass |  C bass  |

   |    G    |   G7   |    G7    |    G    |

    |    G    |    G    |

As in "Coffee Blues", the final measure of the form supplies the rhythmic space for the pick-ups to the next verse.  It would be interesting to see if this phrasing method of using an entire measure to provide the pick-ups for the next verse occurs elsewhere, either in other John Hurt songs or songs by other musicians.  People have a way sometimes of thinking of John Hurt's music as being simple or perhaps even obvious.  The more I study it, the more I encounter things I've not run into elsewhere.  He really had his own way of hearing, singing and playing.
All best,
Johnm

 
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Laura on February 28, 2013, 03:42:34 AM
That's really interesting, John.  I've had a go at both those songs recently, which when written down do appear fairly simple at first but on listening to the recordings there is so much more going on.  In particular I've had problems with Spike Driver's Blues in getting that first line to fit in with what I'm playing.

I wonder if he also does this on "If you don't want me"?
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: colm kill paul on February 28, 2013, 09:46:31 AM
Quote
People have a way sometimes of thinking of John Hurt's music as being simple or perhaps even obvious.  The more I study it, the more I encounter things I've not run into elsewhere.  He really had his own way of hearing, singing and playing.

Absolutely true John and may I take this opportunity to thank you for "decoding" the playing of MJH so that it's detail is made plain for mere mortals like me."Thank you John Miller!"

Colm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on December 31, 2019, 10:32:45 AM
Hi all,
Harry recently posted a performance by Tampa Red, joined by Black Bob on piano, of "Crazy With The Blues", over in the Tampa Red Lyrics thread at https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=1824.msg107350#msg107350 . I was interested to discover, in listening to the song, a blues structure that I had never encountered before, and one that works out so beautifully.  In the first eight bars, the song sounds like it is going to be a cover of "Sitting On Top of The World" or Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues", utilizing the following progression:

   |    I    |   I7    |   IV    |   IVm  |
 
   |   I   |   V7   |  I  IV  |  I  I7  |

The song then pulls a surprise move, going to a bridge, landing on a strong IV7 chord, and continuing for an additional eight bars, like so:

   |   IV7  |   IV7  |    I    |    I    |

   |    V7  |   V7   |  I   IV  |  I  V7  |

So "Crazy With The Blues" ends up being a 16-bar blues unlike any other I've ever encountered.  The form works so well I'm surprised it hasn't been utilized more.  It must be said, too, that Tampa Red's singing and playing on this song are stellar--I can't imagine how they could be better, and Black Bob's time is so heavy, with such a deep backbeat that it is really a treat.  I think this song is over-ripe for rediscovery and performance in a variety of instrumental treatments.  It's always exciting to find a new variation on the form that works so well.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: catyron on January 09, 2020, 12:01:44 AM
Thanks for turning me on to that. I have never heard another song with that structure. It starts like "Sitting On Top of the world," but the IV7 opens a path to 8 more bars that gives it a kind of "hillbilly-meets-W.C.-Handy" flavour. Fascinating.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: harry on February 26, 2020, 06:35:46 PM
On Tampa Red's "Crazy With The Blues" isn't it the I chord instead of the V7 in bar 5?
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 10, 2020, 09:50:36 AM
Right you are, Harry.  I've made the change.
All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Johnm on March 16, 2020, 09:14:47 AM
Hi all,
Pink Anderson's "Sugar Babe", which he recorded playing out of E position in standard tuning tuned about a step low, employs a 16-bar form that I've not encountered elsewhere.  Here is Pink's performance of the song:

https://youtu.be/_ZHrhhJNcww

The song is very close to being a one-chord number, which would be very unusual for a player from Pink's part of the world.  The progression, as Pink played it, worked like so in the first verse accompaniment:

   |  Baug  E   |     E      |     E     |     E     |
   
   |  Baug  E   | Baug  E  |     E     |     E     |

   |  E   Baug  |     E       |     E     |     E     |

   |       E      |      E       |     E     |      E     |

In his verse two accompaniment, Pink varied the progression like so, shifting where the Baug chord and E chord go in the first two bars of the first three 4-bar phrases, but not otherwise changing the progression or adding any other chords.

   |  Baug  E   |     E     |     E     |     E     |

   |  Baug  E   |     E     |     E     |     E     |

   |  Baug  E   |     E     |     E     |     E     |

   |       E       |     E     |     E     |     E     |

In terms of playing the song, the shift from B augmented and E is simplicity itself, and makes for a very quiet left hand.  With the E played as a partial, fretted 0-X-2-1-0-0, using the second finger to fret the fourth string and the index finger to fret the third string, the B augmented is played simply by moving each of those fingers one string toward the bass, while keeping them on the same frets, so that you end up with X-2-1-0-0-0 for the B augmented chord.
Pink used this B augmented fingering and sound in a number of his other songs that he played out of E position in standard tuning, but it's not a sound that I can recall hearing in other East Coast players who were contemporaries of Pink, like Buddy Moss, Blind Boy Fuller, or even Rev. Davis.  What seems particularly interesting about "Sugar Babe" is that, despite never going to a IV7 chord or a V7 chord, it still sounds like a blues, so it's not really necessary to conform to one of the common blues forms for a piece to be heard and felt as a blues.
All best,
Johnm   
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: harry on August 12, 2020, 06:37:24 PM
Louisiana Blues Little Brother Montgomery

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMoqB9QkmJ0 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMoqB9QkmJ0)


   I   |  IV  |  I  |  I
   IV |  iv   | I  |  I
   V  | V#/V |  I  |  V



Is this progression about right? I could use some help.
It seems like a regular 12 bar but with some uncommon changes.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: David Kaatz on August 12, 2020, 10:14:54 PM
Louisiana Blues Little Brother Montgomery




   I   |  IV  |  I  |  I
   IV |  iv   | I  |  I
   V  | V#/V |  I  |  V



Is this progression about right? I could use some help.
It seems like a regular 12 bar but with some uncommon changes.
That first IV chord is really hard to hear, I don't think I hear the F in the bass. To me it sounds like a Ab, possibly with a C in the bass, which would make it numerically a #V. I don't hear the 7th of that chord either. I think the iv chord is actually a #V diminished, because I really hear an emphasis on the Ab note. The last two measures sound like | I / V | I / V | to me.

Dave
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Thomas8 on August 13, 2020, 11:26:48 AM
I hear it as

 I | V | I | I |
IV |#V/V| I  | I |
V  | II/V | I | V

Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: Pan on August 13, 2020, 03:56:35 PM
My offer is a mix of the above (thanks for you guys doing the heavy lifting):

||: I  |  V7 | I | I7 |

| IV | bVI V7 | I | I |

| V7 | bVI V7 | I I7 IV IVm | I V7 : ||

The bVI, of course,  is enharmonically the same as the #V, but I think bVI - V is a more commonly used description for this kind of a chromatically descending progression.

Just my 2 cents

Cheers,

Pan
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: blueshome on August 14, 2020, 04:03:31 AM
The bVI/V move is common in earlier blues and in the playing of Charlie Jackson. Later the Black Ace and  Oscar Woods.
Title: Re: Blues Forms and Vocal Phrasing
Post by: harry on August 14, 2020, 05:27:20 AM
Thanks for the help. I think Pan has it most accurately but I think one could call the turnaround just simply I/V.
You won't encounter this kind of progression often but it works out beautifully.
The V chord in bar 2 mostly appears in a 8 bar blues structure of course. Kidman Blues (Big Maceo) has a V chord in bar 2 as well but it's a 12 bar form.
SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal