collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

* Support Weenie!

Shop on Amazon using these search boxes and Weenie earns a small commission:
USA
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

United Kingdom
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

Canada
Search Now:
In Association with Amazon

* Weenie's CD!

His name is Ramblin'. When he gets a chance, he leaves his mark on everybody's pants - Blind Arthur Blake, Police Dog Blues

Author Topic: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues  (Read 429 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline rdmusicman

  • Member
  • Posts: 1
  • Howdy!
Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« on: May 16, 2018, 09:21:22 AM »
Hi all, have been reading this forum for sometime but hadn't ever contributed so I'm excited to do so. I was reading up on Gus Cannon's great slide banjo performance on "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" and a YouTube user recently suggested the song may have been recorded by Paramount at 85/86 RPM as opposed to 78rpm. The suggestion follows that when Nick Perls made the recording was transferred it was done at the incorrect speed. I had never heard this before and I haven't found much about it online but I thought I'd pose the question to you - what do you think? Do we have any evidence that suggests one way or another (aside from the fact that there are certainly old recordings done at the "incorrect speed")?

"Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home" - Original Speed

"Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home" - Fixed pitch, speed

Online Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10356
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2018, 11:54:46 AM »
Hi rdmusicman,
Welcome to Weenie Campbell.  There is no reason to think or assume that the original recording speed of "Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home" was wrong.  Nick Perls was meticulous about mastering.  There was no need to fix anything.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Thomas8

  • Member
  • Posts: 66
  • oooh well well.
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 02:19:00 PM »
I do think the original sounds unnaturally slow, and his voice especially sounds much more like that of his jug stomper recordings in the "fixed" one.
Might just be a placebo effect though :P

Offline harriet

  • Member
  • Posts: 479
    • www.harrietgoldenslide.com
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2018, 07:17:32 AM »
I'm going to go with the original as correct, I hear the same kind of vocal wavering and warbling on the long notes he sings both in Poor Boy and Viola Blues,Fourth and Blues and I think that there's too much of that character lost in the faster tempo, IMHO if he would have recorded it faster he would not have sung it that way exactly as presented in the alleged corrected version.

My Best,
Harriet

Offline banjochris

  • Member
  • Posts: 1995
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2018, 11:03:24 AM »
I've often thought "Poor Boy" was a little slow, mostly from the vocal quality. I think the "pitch corrected" version here has been sped up too much, however.

Something I have meant to do and never have (and I'm at work now so I can't at the moment) is to compare the pitch of "Poor Boy" to the other tunes from the same session, which to me don't have that slightly slowed down quality of the voice. And see if "Poor Boy" is dramatically flatter.

If I remember right Cannon is already tuned down, so "Madison Street" is in F position but plays lower. I'd compare to that and see what the difference is (keeping in mind that "Poor Boy" should sound around a step higher than "Madison"). Of course Cannon could have tuned up or down, but there is a little "drag" to his voice, to my hearing, on "Poor Boy."

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2510
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2018, 10:17:51 AM »
I just lined up the songs from the November 1927 session in the order Stefan Wirz gives at his site (Jonestown, Poor Boy, Madison Street, Jazz Gypsy, Can You Blame The Colored Man and My Money Never Runs Out--according to the numbers) and gave a listen. Poor Boy definitely stands out because it sounds slower and lower. But that doesn't mean that what we hear isn't an accurate reproduction of how it was performed when it was recorded. It also stands out because of the six songs, it is the only "lament." The other songs sound relatively up tempo to me. Another thing that stands out in Poor Boy is the spoken, "She asked, 'What number did I want,'" at about 2:05, which sounds like a natural speaking voice to me.

I guess it's possible that it was slowed down for "effect" by the producer and recording technician because it sounded too up tempo for a sad song at the speed and pitch that Gus sang it at. But Gus was a very experienced singer and storyteller and he could have just as well changed his playing, pitch and delivery to better match and convey the emotional quality of the song's content.

And it's also possible that there was a glitch in the recording process, but they decided to go with what the had anyway, like in Mississippi John Hurt's "Frankie."

I agree with John that Nick Perls would not have remastered the original at anything but the recorded speed.

I don't have a handy way to do it, but one could slow down the up tempo songs from the session in order to hear what they sound like.

Finally, did Gus ever say anything about the original recording of Poor Boy" after he was rediscovered?
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 10:19:02 AM by Stuart »

Offline banjochris

  • Member
  • Posts: 1995
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2018, 01:42:19 AM »
For what it's worth, the pitches of Cannon's Paramount session are:

Jonestown Blues, C position (gCGBD), C
Poor Boy, G position (gDGBD), E+
Madison Rag, F position (gCGBD), E-flat+
Jazz Gypsy, C position (gCGBD), B-flat-
Can You Blame the Colored Man, C position (gCGBD), C
My Money Never Runs Out, C position (gCGBD), C
He's in the Jailhouse Now, C position (gCGBD), C-

Based on the pitches and positions of three tunes tuned a step or more flat, I would expect "Poor Boy" to be up around F instead of down at E. Compare Cannon's voice on "Poor Boy" to his voice on "Feather Bed," another tune in G tuning pitched at E. On "Feather Bed" Cannon's voice sounds natural and I suspect he's really tuned down that far. On "Poor Boy" because of the relative pitch and his voice, I would guess that the tune was recorded in such a way that it sounds around a half-step or so flat, but not that huge difference of bringing it all the way up to G that the "pitch corrected" version does.

Anyway, my two cents.
Chris

Offline Stuart

  • Member
  • Posts: 2510
  • "The Voice of Almiqui"
Re: Gus Cannon - "Poor Boy, Long Ways from Home" pitch issues
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2018, 02:47:14 PM »
Thanks, Chris. The more I listen, the more I think that it might have been the case that the recording and playback speeds differed, but that it was "close enough for Paramount work," so they went with it. And like you say, the difference doesn't support correcting the pitch to G.

Another song worth comparing it to, IMHO, is "Wolf River Blues."