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Some folks say the Big Bill Blues ain't bad. Musn't have been the Big Bill Blues I had - Big Bill Broonzy, Big Bill Blues

Author Topic: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372  (Read 5482 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« on: December 13, 2004, 05:42:21 PM »
PROGRAM:? 44 Blues--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Mississippi Heavy Water Blues--Robert Pete Williams & Guitar Welch; Smokestack Lightning--Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage; Who Broke The Lock--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; You Don't Love Me--Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage; It's The Sign Of Judgement--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Foxhunt--Ben Douglas; Your Dice Won't Pass--Sally Dotsin, Smoky Babe & Hilary Blunt; Jelly Roll--Willie B. Thomas & Butch Cage; I've Got Religion--Rebecca Smith, Tom Miller & Ruth Miller; Going Downtown Boogie--Smoky Babe; Stack O' Dollars--Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage; Brown Skin Woman--Willie B. Thomas, Butch Cage & Martha Thomas; I Won't Be Your Low-Down Dog No More--Leon Strickland, Lucius Bridges & Leslie Anders; The Piano Blues--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Cotton Field Blues--Smoky Babe; The Farm Blues--Otis Webster; The Boss Man Blues--Otis Webster; Whoa Mule!--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Boll Weevil Blues--Otis Webster; Thousand Miles From Nowhere--Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards & Butch Cage; Dead And Gone--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Called For You Yesterday--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Me & My Chauffeur--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas; Baby Please Don't Go--Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas
? ?
This is a collection of Country dance music, blues and religious numbers that were recorded, in the main, by folklorist Dr. Harry Oster in Louisiana and Mississippi in 1959, 1960 and 1962 (the remaining 5 titles on the program were recorded by Chris Strachwitz and Paul Oliver in 1960).? In it's earliest incarnation, the first 14 tracks of the 25 title program were released on Dr. Oster's now-defunct Folk Lyric label, and then re-released on Arhoolie intact after Chris Strachwitz purchased the Folk Lyric catalog.? The remaining ten titles on the present CD version (running time of 76:55 minutes!) had not previously been released.

The keystone personalities on the CD are fiddler Butch Cage, born in 1894 near Meadville, MS, whom Dr. Oster describes aptly in the liner notes as "a great representative of the now virtually extinct 19th century black fiddle tradition", and Willie B. Thomas, born near Lobdell, LA in 1912.? The music that Butch and Willie played together had tremendous range, going from Blues originals and covers to religious songs, songs that sound rooted in the minstrel tradition, and dance tunes, many of which are commonly found in the white Old-Time fiddle tune tradition as well.? Butch and Willie have eleven tunes on the program, so you really have a chance to get a good taste of their music.? They open with "44 Blues", with Butch singing lead, switching to Willie on lead after about three verses, which allows Butch to give more attention to his fiddle with great results and some terrific fills.? "Who Broke The Lock" is a great and funny dance song with verses commonly encountered in the minstrel tradition, e.g.,
?"Some folks say that a preacher won't steal, but I caught two in my cornfield, etc."
"Jelly Roll", in A, works out to be a great tune for fiddle, and Willie B. sings a verse I always associate with "Keep It Clean".
"Up she jumped, down she fell, her mouth flew open like a mussel shell."
"Whoa Mule" is a great dance tune in G which Willie accompanies as a one-chorder, going the "boom-chang" back-up style one better by simply strumming full chords on the off-beats.? It really makes the time happen well.? "Dead And Gone" is another great dance tune in G, and a one-chorder, that bears a lot of resemblence to Clayton McMichen's "Cackling Hen And Rooster Too" and Burnett and Rutherford's "All Night Long".? "Called For You Yesterday" is an 8-bar blues in G, and they conclude the program with "Me And My Chaffeur" and Baby Please Don't Go".? Willie's accompaniment throughout his and Butch's portion of the program focuses more on laying down the rhythm and chords than playing nifty fills--he is a strong kind of "meat and potatoes" type of rhythm guitarist, generally flat-picking, I would say.

There is a lot of additional music in the program, too.? Robert Pete Williams, joined by Robert "Guitar" J. Welch, performs "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues" in a nifty duo version with both instruments in Spanish tuning (this tune seems to have had really wide circulation--just last week I heard a recording of the Southwestern Virginia banjo player Josh Thomas doing it).? "Smokestack Lightning", "You Don't Love Me", "Stack O'Dollars" and "Thousand Miles From Nowhere" are performed by the grouping of Clarence and Cornelius Edwards and Butch Cage.? The liner notes provide almost no information on them, but Clarence Edwards comes across as a very strong player in E standard, and any one of these performances would be a great tune to figure out by ear, with memorable signature licks.? That great groover, Smoky Babe, does two solo numbers in Spanish, "Going Downtown Boogie" and "Cottonfield Blues" (on which he plays slide with a Chevrolet bushing), and is joined by Sally Dotson and Hillary Blunt on "Your Dice Won't Pass", my favorite tune on the CD.? The vocal gets passed around on this one and it is fun and plenty sexy with some great singing by Sally and Smoky.? Otis Webster performs three songs in E standard, "The Farm Blues", "The Boss Man Blues" and "Boll Weevil Blues", and it is a treat to hear his unself-conscious, charismatic singing, which reminds me a bit of the late Lonnie Pitchford.? One distinctive aspect of Webster's sound is that he plays a B minor 7 for his V chord in E, a beautiful dark sound that Geeshie Wiley similarly used in "Last Kind Word".? Rebecca Smith, along with Tom and Ruth Miller, perform the rousing "I've Got Religion", Leon Strickland, Lucius Bridges and Leslie Anders combine on guitar in A and hand percussion for "I Won't Be Your Low-Down Dog No More".? The program rounds out with Ben Douglas (a pseudonym) performing "Foxhunt" on panpipe and vocal percussion, recorded at the state hospital.
?
Apart from the wonderful musical performances here, I think this CD stands as a tribute to Dr. Harry Oster.? When you consider that he first discovered and recorded Robert Pete Williams, Smoky Babe, Butch Cage, Willie B. Thomas, and did the great early acoustic recordings of Snooks Eaglin, it soon becomes apparent how much those of us who value this music owe him, for the fieldwork and recordings he did.? One thing I have noticed about recordings made by Dr. Oster, too, not only here but in his recordings of Robert Pete elsewhere, and Smoky Babe on his album "Hottest Brand Going":? The musicians recorded by Dr. Oster invariably sound relaxed, unself-conscious, loose, and confident.? It says something very nice about him that he had the capacity to get such natural renditions from the people he recorded; it makes you think they felt liked personally and supported in what they did.

I would recommend this CD very highly to people interested in the black string band tradition and its points of intersection with the white Old-Time tradition, but also to anyone who is interested in a musical snapshot of the music made by members of a community, a place where taking part in music-making was part of membership in the community.
All best,
Johnm?
« Last Edit: April 06, 2005, 12:34:47 PM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2004, 08:12:19 PM »
Thanks for the great review, John. This disc sounds pretty much essential to me. I have listened to samples on the Arhoolie page and enjoyed them all. Will be adding this to the ever-growing list. Anyone wanting a listen to some samples can go to http://www.arhoolie.com/titles/372.shtml.

Andrew

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2004, 08:31:08 PM »
It's now on my Christmas wish list,

Randall
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Offline Gumbo

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2011, 02:26:53 PM »
This is a great collection of songs. Nice review John and thank you for pointing out one of the special things about it - i mean the relaxed atmosphere which makes these songs such a pleasure to listen to.  


Quote
One distinctive aspect of Webster's sound is that he plays a B minor 7 for his V chord in E, a beautiful dark sound that Geeshie Wiley similarly used in "Last Kind Word".

I love the Otis Webster 'Boss Man Blues'. I've been playing Registration Day by Sleepy John Estes a lot recently which sounds very similar in the use of the Bm7.

I can imagine the last verse particularly going down well in performance where his lady promises him rent free food and diamonds, and Otis sees the light as it were!

this is my shot at the lyrics and help would be appreciated

I used to farm, i used to farm baby
when i met you, now you found out my job, now you honey you won't, ?? wanna do
you ought to make up your little mind girl
and try one more time

i learned how to work baby-a long long time ago
now the way you love me baby - nobody knows
make it up in your little mind
one more time

yes you know when i began to farm
the old boss he wanna punish me ??
he had one mule named jack
and one named trigger
all the money for him
and none for the nigger
you know that's a shame
and you're tryin to make a livin
when your boss won't give you no kind of break
but still he call you chillun ??
now let me tell you baby
what i'm gonna do
i'm gonna run way n here, baby, gonna make an arrangement for you

I have found out we can make it
dis da way??


She told me that night, y'know, when i first met her
she said look a-here Daddy, you don't have to work
you wear diamonds everyday, coz all of my mens, they do what i say
you don't have to pay no rent, either buy nothing to eat
because i got a swing him old boss yard, daddy, can't be beat ??

you is the woman i been looking for
you is the one i dearly love
lord make it up your li'l mind baby
honey let's try one more

i believe this is it!
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 02:37:05 PM by Gumbo »

Offline RobBob

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2011, 08:10:30 PM »
I reviewed this CD for Fiddler Magazine several years ago along with Butch Cage & Willie B. Thomas - Old Time Black Southern String Band Music CAT. #: 9045,  another gem of a recording.  I love Cage's quotes from swing bands in his solos.  His natural grittiness is as raw boned blues as you can get.  Love that stuff.  So glad it is still available.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2011, 03:27:59 AM »
Thanks, Gumbo, for bumping this thread.
When I first read it, I thought I owned this on CD. An inspection of the CD cabinet revealed this to have been a false belief.
Shortage of money led me to search for it as a torrent, with negative results.
So... I've just downloaded it as an MP3 album from Amazon.
Looking forward to hearing it in my headphones when I go for a stroll this afternoon.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2011, 03:05:13 PM »
Fantastic album. There's some Smoky Babe stuff on there I hadn't heard before. Great stroll, wonderful tunes & actually saw a little sunshine  8)

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2011, 05:20:22 PM »
yeah - Smokey Babe has a fine voice - i'll be on the lookout for more of his stuff. glad you got some sun - hopefully food will follow!

Offline frankie

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 05:32:21 PM »
Smoky Babe has it all...  check out this record for more of him - and as a decided bonus, get Herman E. Johnson as well. Fantastic music - really original in many ways:



Not to take away from Country Negro Jam Session...  there are some records that are never far from the player - this record is one of those.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2011, 01:45:21 PM »
Because mine is an MP3 album, I can't actually read the track & artist listings without having to perform several complex manoeuvres; fumbling to find "stop" on the screen, finding my glasses etc.
So, I didn't know Smoky Babe was even on this album. Imagine, therefore, if you will, my delight on hearing that distinctive guitar drive.
I have both of those Smoky Babe (& Herman E. Johnson) albums. Is there more of Mr. Brown's stuff out there that I've yet to hear?

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2011, 01:43:46 AM »
Is there more of Mr. Brown's stuff out there that I've yet to hear?

Andy - check out the tag at the bottom of this page for more info.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2011, 03:42:34 AM »
Andy - check out the tag at the bottom of this page for more info.
Also try here http://www.wirz.de/music/smokyfrm.htm to read some ancient liner notes.  :)

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2011, 04:12:27 PM »
PP & BH (inter alia),
Thanks, I always forget to look at the tags. Their usefulness is slowly creeping into my consciousness.
Excelsior!
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 04:23:51 PM by Stumblin »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2011, 10:16:33 AM »
Hi Gumbo,
I've been away from my copy of "Country Negro Jam Session" and just got back to it.  Here's what I have for the lyrics on Otis Webster's "The Boss Man Blues".  It's substantially the same as what you came up with except where I have words in CAPs. This is such a freely phrased tune, but at the most basic level it seems like a re-working of Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues".  It seems like it would have been better titled, "Make it Up in Your Little Mind"

   I used to farm, I used to farm, baby, when I met you
   Now you found out my job, now you, honey, you don't, baby, want to do
   You ought to make up your little mind, girl, and try one more time

   I learned how to work, baby, long, long time ago
   Now the way you love me, baby, nobody know
   Make it up in your little mind jus' one more time

   SPOKEN: Yes, you know, when I begin to farm
   Old boss didn't WANT TO FURNISH  me
   He had the one mule named Jack
   And one named Trigger
   All the money for him
   And none for the nigger
   You know, that's a shame
   You tryin' to make a livin'
   When your boss won't give you no kind of break
   But still, he call you "chillun"

   SUNG:  Now, let me tell you, baby, what I'm gonna do
   I'm gonna run 'way in here, baby, gonna make an arrangement for you
   I have found out we can make it--this the way

   SPOKEN: She told me that night, you know, when I first met her
   She said, "Looky here, Daddy, you don't have to work.
   You can wear diamonds every day,
   'Cause all of my mens, they do what I say.
   You don't have to pay no rent,
   Either buy nothin' to eat,
   Because I got a swing here in my old Boss' yard,
   Daddy, it can't be beat."

   SUNG: You is the woman I been lookin' for
   You is the one I dearly love
   Lord, make it up, your little mind, baby, honey, let's try, one more

   SPOKEN: I believe this is it!

Edited, 5/20 to pick up correction from uncle bud

All best,
Johnm
  
  
« Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 08:21:46 AM by Johnm »

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Country Negro Jam Session--Arhoolie CD 372
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2011, 07:38:32 AM »
Thanks John. I hear Furnish, too, now. Wish i could make sense of that "Swing him old boss yard" line though. That's a puzzler.

 


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