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Author Topic: Favorite singers  (Read 29038 times)

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Offline MTJ3

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #60 on: March 06, 2006, 05:36:08 PM »
Doesn't that verse also appear in "Viola Lee Blues"? 
Johnm, Right you are.  Recorded September 20, 1928, it beats "Joliet Bound" by almost 3 1/2 years.

Offline dj

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #61 on: March 07, 2006, 03:57:44 AM »
Another minor singer who I find very appealing is Lewis Black.  He recorded four titles in Memphis on December 10, 1927, accompanying himself on guitar.  Black had a rather "unschooled" delivery, at times (on Rock Island Blues and Gravel Camp Blues) reminiscent of Ed Bell.  His Corn Liquor Blues is to my mind a minor masterpiece, although I have to admit that it's a masterpiece that verges on the edge of becoming a shambles at times  :).  Black did a lot of humming and was partial to filling out lines with vocalizations such as "hi hi hi hi hi".  On Spanish Blues his vocal is almost entirely hummed, with lyrics only on the last line of the last full verse and on one lone "floating" line right before the song ends.  Lewis Black's complete recorded works are on the Juke and well worth a listen.

I've been unable to uncover any biographical information on Black.  Does anyone know if any information on him exists?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #62 on: March 07, 2006, 10:35:06 AM »
Another minor singer who I find very appealing is Lewis Black....(cut) 
I've been unable to uncover any biographical information on Black.  Does anyone know if any information on him exists?
I believe he's still a biographical blank but I don't know what information is contained in the booklet to Document's "Country Blues Collector?s Items (1924-1928): Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order" (DOCD-5169) on which he appears. Anybody have it?

I first heard him in 1963 when I bought a second-hand copy of the 1960 LP Blues Fell This Morning - he was the first track. Paul Oliver in discussing Gravel Camp in the notes says:

"Many were like the Arkansas singer Lewis Black, coming from the lowest economic stratum of an underprivileged minority group. Rough and barely comprehensible, it was natural that such a singer as he should tell of the uncertainties of his work in the "jobs" reserved by their very nature primarily for Negroes?the logging, turpentine, gravel, railroad and levee camps where he had to "go out on the queue", taking his turn for such work as the "straw bosses" might give him. His ragged verses, his "hollered" words are a clear indication of the origins of the blues."

All rather impressionistic and 'of their time', but where he gleaned the information about him being from Arkansas I don't know.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #63 on: March 07, 2006, 11:31:12 AM »
I've been unable to uncover any biographical information on Black.  Does anyone know if any information on him exists?
Just for the hell of it I thought I'd look him up in the Routledge Encyclopedia but he doesn't have an entry, but if Jesse Fuller is only derserving of a four line one not much hope for poor old Lewis, eh?  :o

Offline dj

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #64 on: March 07, 2006, 01:29:38 PM »
Quote
I don't know what information is contained in the booklet to Document's "Country Blues Collector?s Items (1924-1928): Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order" (DOCD-5169)

The notes concerning Lewis Black on DOCD5169:

"These sides are without a doubt some of the most primitive and intriguing early blues ever recorded.  Played in open G tuning they have a pure African feel and this, combined with his troubled vocal delivery and poetic lyrics, indicate an artist that was probably more concerned with personal expression than in pleasing a given audience."

It sounds like a rather poetic attempt to say "We don't know much about Lewis Black".  I don't know that I'd agree with the "pure African feel", "troubled vocal delivery", or "more concerned with personal expression".  To me he sounds a bit like Ed Bell, and occasionally a bit like Jaybird Coleman.  Could Paul Oliver have assumed an Arkansas origin on the strength of Black's similarity to these two Alabama artists?  But then Black also reminds me a bit of Ishmon Bracey and Rubin Lacy.  Whatever his biographical details, I highly recommend his singing.

Edited to add:  Oops!  Because I had Ed Bell on my mind, I read Paul Oliver's "Arkansas" as "Alabama", even though I typed it correctly.  Oh well...
« Last Edit: March 08, 2006, 03:33:10 AM by dj »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #65 on: March 07, 2006, 05:09:13 PM »
Hi dj,
I share your skepticism of the significance of a "troubled vocal delivery".  It reminds me of a passage by Greil Marcus talking about Dock Boggs's singing and saying it sounded like his spine was being ripped out, or something like that.  My response reading that was to feel, "Geez, take it easy, it's a vocal style!".  I think the notion that the sounds a musician makes must always reflect his/her innermost feelings at the time a recording was made is a little credulous, at least.  Most musicians are shooting for a good take, I would think, and while having the emotional content that comes across with the rendition be true to the song is part of what constitutes a good take, I don't think that it need be assumed that it refers back to the musician's emotional state in the larger sense; rather more it pertains to the musician's emotional life in the context of the song's universe.  In other words, I think the musician is going to where the song itself is emotionally.  Was Skip James jolly when he did "Drunken Spree" and morose when he did "Cypress Grove"?  I don't think so, but "Drunken Spree" is certainly jolly when compared to "Cypress Grove".
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #66 on: March 07, 2006, 11:48:20 PM »
Was Skip James jolly when he did "Drunken Spree" and morose when he did "Cypress Grove"?  I don't think so, but "Drunken Spree" is certainly jolly when compared to "Cypress Grove".
In the case of "Drunken Spree" Skip may have been 'jolly' at having heard Uncle Dave Macon's 1926 rendition as Last Late Night When My Willie Came Home. ;D

Offline Johnm

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #67 on: April 28, 2006, 11:45:00 PM »
Hi all,
I was transcribing the lyrics to Scrapper Blackwell's "Trouble Blues" last night and realized that his singing is always really good.  I reckon it's hard to get much attention as a singer when you spend the most visible portion of your professional life as a musician working with Leroy Carr, one of the greatest Blues singer ever, but Scrapper was really outstanding.  If anything, I like his post-rediscovery singing even better than his early efforts.  His "Going Where the Monon Crosses the Yellow Dog" is just beautiful. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #68 on: April 29, 2006, 12:42:09 AM »
If anything, I like his post-rediscovery singing even better than his early efforts.
Absolutely, and if I could locate it, I'd post something Paul Oliver wrote in the 70s on this very topic which was very astute.  However, in the meantime. this is what Duncan Schiedt said in his leaflet to Scrapper's "comeback" LP (Blues Before Sunrise, 77 Records 77LA12/4, 1960):

"Scrapper is still an intensely proud man, no doubt due in part to a generous helping of Chorokee Indian blood. Perhaps it is this pride that has held him in anonymity for over twenty-five years playing in cheap dives and walk-up apartments to small groups of acquaintances, and avoiding the young men of other generations: who would taunt him as "old-fashioned". But the fact remains that except for one or two sides made with a girl pianist, Blackwell has been lost to the recording world since Leroy's death.

In this his first recording in all that time, Blackwell reveals a guitar style unimpaired by the years, an intensity of feeling only now caught by modern recording, and most unusual of all, a vocal style that is unpretentious yet compelling."

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #69 on: April 29, 2006, 11:08:40 AM »
Having just listened to some old cassette recordings I made from records I'd have to add Washboard Sam & Victoria Spivey to my list. Sam's voice is very expressive & muscular with a kind of jazzy looseness & Spivey has that dirty dirty nasal thing going on.
Interesting that you should mention these two artists in the same sentence. It was Spivey who managed to coax Washboard Sam to perform/record again in 1964 following his self imposed retirement from music a decade previously. She described how he turned up at her New York recording studio to accompany artists she was recording thus,  "Washboard Sam, my old musical standby from back in the early 30s, arrived immaculately dressed like a deacon from church with his forty year-old washboard under his arm. No washing machine will ever put him out of business."

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #70 on: May 02, 2006, 06:43:15 PM »
But the fact remains that except for one or two sides made with a girl pianist, Blackwell has been lost to the recording world since Leroy's death.

It's interesting how little was known of blues discography at the time of Scrapper's re-discovery.  After Leroy's death, Scrapper cut 8 sides (4 as Francis Black and 4 as Scrapper Blackwell) with Dot Rice (the "girl pianist" about whose playing Scrapper said, "She was really something."), 4 sides backing Bumble Bee Slim, and possibly 2 sides backing Jimmie Gordon.  After July 8, 1935, he did, indeed, have a long recording hiatus.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2006, 06:32:57 AM by MTJ3 »

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #71 on: May 02, 2006, 07:22:05 PM »
Hi all,
I was transcribing the lyrics to Scrapper Blackwell's "Trouble Blues" last night and realized that his singing is always really good.  I reckon it's hard to get much attention as a singer when you spend the most visible portion of your professional life as a musician working with Leroy Carr, one of the greatest Blues singer ever, but Scrapper was really outstanding.  If anything, I like his post-rediscovery singing even better than his early efforts.  His "Going Where the Monon Crosses the Yellow Dog" is just beautiful.

Without straying too OT and getting into my views about Scrapper's instrumental prowess, Scrapper gets entirely too little credit as a musician.  He was an artist in his own right, separate and apart from his association with Carr; in addition to his 120+ sides with Carr, he recorded more than 60 sides as a solo artist or a sideman.  He was simply a first call musician, and had he lived other than in Indianapolis, he would have been even more prolific.  It may very well be that his "Kokomo Blues" and "Penal Farm Blues" were recorded before his initial foray with Leroy.  (In fact, I have theorized [without much viable support] that he may have been viewed by Guernsey [the A&R man who brought them to the field session in Indianapolis to make their first records] as the hot commodity and not Carr at the time of their initial sessions.)

As to the singing, I have listened to Blackwell and Carr intently and intensively for a number of years, and I find their approaches to be similar in a number of significant respects.  Not to commit the heresy of even appearing to diminish Leroy's contributions to the idiom, which were quite another thing entirely, Scrapper's singing displayed more intensity and more versatility and range than Leroy's.  I tend to favor Scrapper's singing on his pre-1934 sides.

Offline MarkC

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #72 on: May 03, 2006, 12:19:36 PM »
A few additions that I haven't seen mentioned (or may have missed):

Pink Anderson - I don't think the early sides with Simmie Dooley stand out, but I really like his later recordings, particularly on "Carolina Blues Man Vol. 1"

Blind Willie Walker - A real shame that there weren't more recordings of him

Bertha "Chippie" Hill - somewhere I've got an old vinyl collection from Germany that has a great recording of her, done maybe in the 30s or 40s, with a Jazz band and she's really a powerhouse. I can't remember the name of the song, but this is the ending:

I've got to go downtown baby
and get me some good shrimps

'cause I've got to feed baby,
two or three hungry old pimps

Big Bill Broonzy's been mentioned, but I have to say that he's possibly my favorite.

Offline MTJ3

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #73 on: May 03, 2006, 01:08:05 PM »
Bertha "Chippie" Hill - somewhere I've got an old vinyl collection from Germany that has a great recording of her, done maybe in the 30s or 40s, with a Jazz band and she's really a powerhouse.

Fine and underappreciated singer with a strong, clear voice.  Check out her sides with Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Favorite singers
« Reply #74 on: May 03, 2006, 01:10:17 PM »
Bertha "Chippie" Hill - somewhere I've got an old vinyl collection from Germany that has a great recording of her, done maybe in the 30s or 40s, with a Jazz band and she's really a powerhouse. I can't remember the name of the song, but this is the ending:

I've got to go downtown baby
and get me some good shrimps

'cause I've got to feed baby,
two or three hungry old pimps

Sounds familiar, probably from the handful of recordings she made for Circle on her 1946-7 'comeback', having retired from music in 1929 on her marriage. She made a big impression at the 1948 Paris Jazz Festival but two years later was killed by a hit and run driver in New York City.