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"Blues" music was created to chase away gloom... The Happy-go-lucky songs of the Southern Negro we call "Blues" - W. C. Handy, 1919. "The Father of the Blues" points out that you've got to be happy if you want to sing the Blues. Quoted by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff in "They Cert'ly Sound Good To Me: Sheet Music, Southern Vaudeville, And The Commercial Ascendancy Of The Blues" in Ramblin' On My Mind, David Evans, ed

Author Topic: Genealogy of Hill Country blues  (Read 1307 times)

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Offline Norfolk Slim

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Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« on: May 01, 2014, 12:12:06 PM »
I was listening to Burnside's early recordings in the car on the way home today (aren't they great?!).

Without wishing to obsess about categorisation, it got me to thinking about the roots and lineage of that style of blues.  The earliest in that style that I can think of (and I'm probably showing my ignorance here) is probably John Lee Hooker. His early acoustic stuff in particular, is very much in that ideom- groove driven, repetitive, foot stomping music.  Dance music really.  I'm thinking of Boogie Chillun, Rhythm No.2, Hobo etc etc

It is clearly a style that carried through time and seems to have grown and developed in certain parts of Mississippi in particular, though I'm sure its far more widespread than that, arriving with the likes of Robert Belfour, RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.  Clearly a big influence on people like Seasick Steve today as well.

Belton Sutherland also came to mind (having recorded one of his tunes on my CD... ;))

Can we trace the lineage back pre- JLH?  Can we draw a line to fill the gap between 40s/50s JLH and the much later discovery/ recordings of Burnside et al (those first recordings were by Mitchell in the 60s I believe- but then no more til the 80s), or was it something which continued to be played in rural places, but not much recorded?  Point me in the direction of some great people I've not yet listened to or heard of!






Offline wreid75

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2014, 12:21:39 PM »
What a fun idea.  I will have to put my thinking cap on for this and look into it.  I am not as well versed in Hill Country as much as others.  Lets see how far back and wide reaching the branches can go back.

Offline Eldergreene

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2014, 12:37:33 PM »
Fred McDowell is the first name that comes to mind, but certainly that particular driving rhythm is there in Patton's Mississippi Boll Weevil, & Jim Thompkins' Bedside Blues grooves pretty well,for two possible older examples.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2014, 12:45:42 PM »
Funny you should mention this, as after reading the recent thread on Catfish blues I was contemplating on posting my thoughts there, as well as a video.

I think Robert Petway stands as a pivotal player between Patton and the Hill Country sound. The figure he plays on the high E string, during his vamp between later verses seems to me clearly a cover of Patton's high E string in Green River Blues. I think Patton uses a non-opposing style of playing, frailing with the index in parallel to the thumb to both catch that high E string and allowing a downward hand motion to tap the top with his ring and little finger. I think Petway does the same here, and the "fingerpicks sound" that Uncle Bud mentions in the Catfish thread is Petway tapping the top of the resonator while playing the vamp.

But looking at the figures in that vamp itself I hear several precursors to the long vamps used in Hill Country playing. One in particular is that he hammers on to an unstruck string, the 6th, at the end of the primary lick in the vamp, after striking the 5th string. This is something I remember seeing Robert Balfour doing at PT many years ago. The other licks he goes to in the vamp, one under the spoken line "play it long time" and another shortly after that are extremely reminiscent of, and I think possibly models for, the playing of later players. Without the limitations of a 3 minute 78 recording it is not hard to imaging those vamps being extended indefinitely and hanging in those alternate licks for as long as he wanted.

I'll follow up this post on the other thread where I originally intended it to be and hopefully get a video up. Still a work in progress, and the first song I have transcribed in about 4 years, I think. It was great to get back into the music so deeply.

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Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2014, 01:31:12 PM »
Garfield Akers and Joe Callicott comes to mind as a hill country ancestor, Robert Wilkins as well, some of his guitar licks on Rolling Stone are similar to RLs Goin Down South. Eli Greene, who mentored Fred McDowell comes to mind and wasnt he supposedly connected to Patton somehow? Otto Virgial also has a hill country sound to my ears. Charlie Patton spent some time in the hill country, I wonder what his influence was on that region and vice versa. The guitar style of Hubert Sumlin had an impact on RL and Jessie Mae Hemphill hence She Wolf and RLs many renditions of Wolf tunes. It seems that Sid Hemphill and Lucius Smith were the oldest documented musicians in that region. George Mitchell's work sheds a lot of light in this area. Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967 is a must own book by Mitchell. Just some thoughts.
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Offline harriet

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2014, 03:25:12 PM »
Napolian Strickland


Offline jrn

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2014, 05:00:23 PM »
I imagine that Kenny Brown would be a wealth of information. As a youngster he was taught by Callicot. He also played with R.L. for about 35 years.

Btw, there's a Mississippi hill country blues guitar workshop in Holly Springs this year. June 26th I believe. One of the instructors will be Gary Burnside, R.L.'s youngest son.

Wax- long time, no see!
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2014, 05:25:33 PM »
Garfield Akers and Joe Callicott comes to mind as a hill country ancestor, Robert Wilkins as well, some of his guitar licks on Rolling Stone are similar to RLs Goin Down South. Eli Greene, who mentored Fred McDowell comes to mind and wasnt he supposedly connected to Patton somehow? Otto Virgial also has a hill country sound to my ears. Charlie Patton spent some time in the hill country, I wonder what his influence was on that region and vice versa. The guitar style of Hubert Sumlin had an impact on RL and Jessie Mae Hemphill hence She Wolf and RLs many renditions of Wolf tunes. It seems that Sid Hemphill and Lucius Smith were the oldest documented musicians in that region. George Mitchell's work sheds a lot of light in this area. Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967 is a must own book by Mitchell. Just some thoughts.

And some excellent thoughts, powerline. A lot of info and leads compressed into that paragraph.

BTW, for those who haven't heard it, the Lomax recordings of Sid Hemphill, Lucius Smith and Co. is just great.


Offline jpeters609

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2014, 08:05:04 AM »
Jessie Lee Vortis and Ranie Burnette were both older Hill Country musicians who were claimed as mentors by R.L. Burnside. Vortis, I believe, appears on Burnside's Adelphi CD. He also has a couple tracks on the George Mitchell box set. Burnette is on the Swingmaster "Goin' Down South" CD along with Burnside. (I think he appears elsewhere, too, but can't think of where at the moment.)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2014, 01:58:30 PM by jpeters609 »
Jeff

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2014, 01:03:45 PM »
Thanks for the thoughts and names folks.  I can always trust the collective Weenie knowledge-base for this sort of stuff.

I'm looking forward to a quiet evening when everyone is out, with a cold drink and a good youtube session looking up all the people which have been mentioned, and then seeing how they fit chronologically.

I understand the Garfield Akers reference- certainly the repetitive groove thing is there in his stuff, though the overall feel is different.  I shall look into the Mitchell set and book.


Offline alyoung

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2014, 07:14:58 AM »
Jessie Lee Vortis and Raine Burnette were both older Hill Country musicians who were claimed as mentors by R.L. Burnside. Vortis, I believe, appears on Burnside's Adelphi CD. He also has a couple tracks on the George Mitchell box set. Burnette is on the Swingmaster "Goin' Down South" CD along with Burnside. (I think he appears elsewhere, too, but can't think of where at the moment.)
Ranie Burnette had a single on David Evan's High Water label, from Memphis -- Hungry Spell/Coal Black Mattie, Highwater 411, both recorded in 1979. Dunno whether it's available today in any format -- I've had it for years. ("Ranie" is how it's spelled on the record.)

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2014, 11:29:30 AM »
Fat Possum issued a whole Rainie Burnett album, it's excellent.
http://biglegalmessrecords.com/artists/ranie-burnette
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline jrn

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2014, 12:29:57 PM »
There's quite a few of Burnette's Highwater recordings on youtube.
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline jrn

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2014, 12:32:45 PM »
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline Boxcarro

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2014, 12:14:40 AM »
tHEM OF YOUALL THAT LISTEN TO THEM OLD BLUES HEWAR THEM RESERENCES TO hot Sprins, I Grewed Up (Musically) THEYER. HOT SPRINGS ARKANSAS was MECCA to Black Folk when I COMED from over BENTON in 1967. I WAS ESTABLISH AS HOT LICKS GUITARIST, OWNED A FANCY GIBSON ES-330, WONED BATTEL OF BANDS, TRAVELED TO HOLLYWOOD [hitch hiked] for SUMMER OF LOVE, took LSD from meeting THIMORY LEAREY & Agust Stanly Osley, AND MALERN AVENUE, from the Greyhound Trailways Station on BENTON STREET to GRAND AVE.

I got on that freight train; I tried to beat my way.
Lord, them rocks and gravel, Lord, flew all in my face. (What happened, boy?)

I asked the conductor, let me ride it blind. (Okay...)
I asked the conductor to let me ride it blind. (What did he say?)
Lord, he shook his head, said, "The train ain't none of mine."

(Left you shook up, then...)

I got a letter from Hot Spring. I tell you how it was read. (Feel any better, boy.)
I got a letter from Hot Spring. I tell you how it was read.
Lord, it's come at once, boy: your sure-'nough gal is dead. (...know whether to go blind, then...)
Come at, come at once, sure-'nough gal, sure-'nough gal is dead.

Said I left my baby standin' out back door cryin'. (Felt like somethin' else.)
I left my baby standing out back door cryin'.
I never felt so sorry, Lord, till she said goodbye.
Lord, she?, Lord, she said good?, Lord, she said goodbye.

I got on that freight train; I tried to beat my way.
Lord, them rocks and gravel, Lord, flew all in my face. (What happened, boy?)

I asked the conductor, let me ride it blind. (Okay...)
I asked the conductor to let me ride it blind. (What did he say?)
Lord, he shook his head, said, "The train ain't none of mine."

(Left you shook up, then...)

I got a letter from Hot Spring. I tell you how it was read. (Feel any better, boy.)
I got a letter from Hot Spring. I tell you how it was read.
Lord, it's come at once, boy: your sure-'nough gal is dead. (...know whether to go blind, then...)
Come at, come at once, sure-'nough gal, sure-'nough gal is dead.

Said I left my baby standin' out back door cryin'. (Felt like somethin' else.)
I left my baby standing out back door cryin'.
I never felt so sorry, Lord, till she said goodbye.
Lord, she?, Lord, she said good?, Lord, she said goodbye.

Offline Boxcarro

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2014, 12:33:54 AM »
[/URL][/img]I hit some key wrong. As I Saying, I Used to Go Down to the Black folk Clubs & See, Hear, Touch, Talk to & "JAM" with Great Rythums & Blues Stars RHIAT THEYAR! On SUNDAY (blue laws) folk went to Play Music by the Carpenter Dam Deep Ctfish Hole, or at the BOOTLEGGERS. I had a AMPEG B-10, a FENDER MUSICMAKER 1961, bought at Pawn Shop $35.00. or Id took the Les Paul Junior (SG) with 1 P90 Pckup, We Would JAM FOR HOURS! I was White-Mix marry to Mexican Girl...But I Hear Often Refered HOT SPRINGS ARKANSAS, Sleepy John E
http://i187.photobucket.com/albums/x180/Boxcarro/BOXCARRO/KD5MPM3.jpg
I hit a wrong button again.
LOST MOST OF MY WRITING.
[/img]
I have MACULER DEGENERATER behine my EYE MACULERS & Thing That http://i187.photobucket.com/albums/x180/Boxcarro/BOXCARRO/PICT0065.jpgSEES.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2014, 12:37:03 AM by Boxcarro »

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Genealogy of Hill Country blues
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2014, 09:19:39 AM »
Dr Ross always sounded hill country to me, I see some parallels in guitar style with RL. I wish there was more info out there on Belton Sutherland. Is there also maybe a connection between St Louis and Hill Country styles? Henry Townsends early recordings have a similar drony feel, that E position capoed up, or whatever, and those guys were mostly originally from Miss.
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

 


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