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Author Topic: Slow Blues in G Standard  (Read 4679 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Slow Blues in G Standard
« on: April 05, 2005, 02:33:22 PM »
So, (in the vein of the blues in F thread) a while back, on a previous trip to New Jersey (as we didn't have a chance to get together this time), Frank got me interested in the several slow blues in G by Blind Boy Fuller, probably best exemplified by:

Screamin' and Cryin' Blues by Blind Boy Fuller

I thought this would be a good area to create a new songlist. Of course, BBF has several rag blues in G, like Step It Up and Go, and I'm sure there are lots of rag blues by others, so let's exclude those (or create a seperate thread). Two others that I have in my repertoire are:

Love in Vain, by Robert Johnson
Ragged and Dirty by William Brown (the pick is relatively quick, but the 24 bar form (I think) makes the vocal a slow blues to me)

Perusing banjochris' excellent listing of Blind Willie McTell's sides and their keys in the Georgia Blues Workshop thread, I also came up with:

Loving Talking Blues by Willie McTell
It's Your Time to Worry by Willie McTell
My Baby's Gone by Willie McTell
Death Cell Blues by Willie McTell
B and O Blues No. 2 by Willie McTell
Boll Weavil by Willie McTell

There might be one or two more in his later recordings but I couldn't check them. He has quite a few rag blues in G, like Razor Ball and Kill It Kid.

I'm sure there are a few among Clifford Gibson's sides, but I don't know them off hand (sure would like to learn some CG, tho')

Any one wants to list some of the other BBF slow G blues, please do.

Listening to these BWMcT sides, and remebering what Frank was talking about with the BBF sides, it seems that G is very conducive to the use of midrange runs as responses to the vocal lines. Thinking of Clifford Gibson, I seem to recall that he uses this style also. This is certainly something that draws me to these songs. Any further thoughts on this would be welcome as well.

Seeing how many I found in McTell's work makes me think that there are probably a lot more out there than I realize, but let's see what we come up with. Remember, no rag blues and, of course, no Spanish, either.

Thanks.
All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline dj

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2005, 02:56:57 PM »
Another Blind Boy Fuller slow blues in G is Baby, Quit Your Low Down Ways.  And speaking of midrange runs, check out the nice chromatic run from G up to D in the last line of each verse.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2005, 08:36:02 PM »
A few of my favorites:

Blind Blake -- Wilson Dam, Bootleg Rum Dum Blues (there are many, many others)
Mance Lipscomb -- If I Miss the Train, Alcohol Blues (Blues in G, too, but that's not too slow)
John Hurt -- Got the Blues, Can't Be Satisfied (fast tune, slowish vocal), Joe Turner Blues
Willie Walker -- Dupree Blues (I don't play this one, but I have ripped off that final run with the diminished chord quite a few times)

Chris

Offline a2tom

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2005, 06:17:54 AM »
stupid question, but is there anything more defining to the term "slow blues" than just "blues at a slow tempo".  I've seen that term used before as if it describes a more objectively characterizable sub-genre of the blues.

tom

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2005, 12:46:13 PM »
Hi all,
A couple of slow G blues from Bukka White come to mind:  "Strange Place Blues" and "Sleepy Man Blues".  I am not aware of any recordings by Clifford Gibson in G standard, John C.  Everything I know by him is in Spanish, Vastapol, or E standard.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2005, 11:12:22 PM »
Hi all,
How about Tommy McClennan's "New Highway 51 Blues" and "Whiskey Headed Man"?
All best,
Johnm

Offline frankie

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2005, 01:00:53 PM »
I agree with John - sounds to me like everything that Clifford Gibson recorded was in vestapol, spanish or std, key of E.  I think you'll also find on a closer listening that McTell's Death Cell Blues is played in A position, not G.

The songs in G that really turn my crank are the ones where the vocal and guitar lines seem to lead musical lives of their own.  First and foremost for me are these by Blind Lemon Jefferson:

Rambler Blues
That Crawling Baby Blues
Deceitful Brownskin Blues
Hangman's Blues
Got The Blues

Although Broke and Hungry shares some similarities with these, in my mind, it sets up a relatively steady chordal accompaniment under the singing. The songs above have just a skeleton of an accompaniment.  The exception may be Got The Blues, just because the whole thing is so over the top, but essentially, the accompaniment is moving all the time, rarely vamping on a single chord or directly doubling the vocal melody.

In Rambler Blues, during what I guess would pass for the IV chord, Lemon plays the minor third of the scale while singing the tonic note (G) an octave above.  He mirrors what he's singing rhythmically, but harmonically sticks with that minor third.  This alone is pretty dramatic sounding, but then in the next to last verse, he sings in unison with the minor third note he's playing on the guitar.  It's a pretty intense moment, imho - lots of space, not a lot of florid guitar stuff, but man, what a sound.

A couple of Ramblin' Thomas songs kind of fit into this category for me, but he does also tend toward a straight chordal accompaniment - thinking here of Sawmill Moan and Ramblin' Mind Blues, and just to point out the weirdness of his harmonic sense: Lock and Key Blues.

Blind Boy Fuller has an accompaniment in G that I like a lot - like you said, Screaming and Crying Blues is a good example.  I used to have a running list somewhere:

Wires All Down
My Best Gal Gonna Leave Me
Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon
Walking And Looking Blues
Worried And Evil Man Blues
Shaggy Like A Bear
You're Laughing Now
Passenger Train Woman
When You Are Gone
Night Rambling Woman

I'm less crazy about Baby, Quit Your Lowdown Ways, just because the closely tracked vocal melody over the first part of the verse doesn't do anything for me.  DJ, the run you mention shows up in just about all of Fuller's G songs that I'm talking about, though.  It's not chromatic from G to D, but nearly so...  at least from A to D, I guess you could say.  You'll find a very similar run in Rev. Davis' "O Lord Search My Heart".  Rev. Davis ties the run to some underlying chord changes, up to a D major, then descending to a C7, then back to G.  Fuller's is more sparse, and he uses it as a single note run that starts on a C7 and runs back to G.

Fuller tends toward a chordal accompaniment, more so than Lemon, anyway, but still manages to keep that 'constant motion' feeling going on under the vocal.  The things I like the best about this type of accompaniment are 1) the way the thumb and index finger work in a sort of call-response with each other 2) the way the vocal is almost unhinged from the guitar, and 3) that there's ample use of space - he's not playing constantly and not afraid to take his time.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2005, 06:56:58 PM »
Hi Frank,
Thanks for the in-depth reponse--it's good to hear from you, as always, and it beats the hell out of my recent "here's another couple" type contributions here!
Re your observations on Lemon's G tunes you cited, I've been trying to put my finger on what is so special about him (apart from being so powerfully musical) for some time.  I think you are on to something with the G guitar parts that
   * Express melodic content almost in lieu of harmonic content for vocal accompaniment.  This is not encountered all that often in the style, certainly in some slide players, but even moreso in Lonnie Johnson backing Texas Alexander.  I particularly like the sound because it makes for a more open texture and has the accompaniment functioning like another voice.  Moreover, I like the extent to which it presumes the listener can hear the harmony anyway, and it can be understood implicitly.  It's kind of the solo guitar/voice equivalent of a piano-less Jazz quartet, like the original Ornette Coleman Quartet, in which there was no instrument operating in a chordal role, but instead, everyone was playing lines.  Ornette, after all, is a Fort Worth guy; I always thought his music had a lot in common with Lemon's.
   * Treat musical time and tempo as fluid or elastic entities that can be stretched or contracted as the singer/player's taste dictates.  Lemon treats tempo as another possible area for application of dynamics, so he does the pulse equivalent of the loud/soft contrast, accelerating and decelerating as the spirit moves him.  I have always particularly liked and appreciated the extent to which Lemon's music is NOT danceable.  He was always in the moment, and that's a hell of a lot harder to get to than simply being danceable.

Ruminations like this always yield the same result for me--Lemon was great!
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2005, 01:38:09 AM »
Of course, Lemmon had lots of danceable material, too, to cover all those booger roogers gigs he had. -G-

But when you think of street singing, maybe that dance beat isn't so important. I remember you talking about Ramblin' Thomas that way, Frank, about how Sawmill Moan gave you such a feeling of a guy standing out on the road just singing out.

Anyway, great discussion so far. Man, I always feel like such a pup around here with the depth of knowledge you guys have.

So, what is it about the key of G that makes it conducive to these chromatic runs and non-chordal accompaniments? Does it have anything to do with the open 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings being in the root chord, does that somehow open the fretboard up for these runs in a way that doesn't happen with other keys? Or am I just unaware that it does happen in other keys (definitely possible)? I guess it suggests a lot of good unisons. I do feel like a beginner sometimes whern I try to understand these things. I guess I play and even perform a lot of music that I don't really understand, except on an emotional level. I now that the chromatic nature of Ragged and Dirty gives the song a very emotional quality for me. Brown plays every note but the flat II, but I have no idea how or why it works. I guess this is letting me know that I need to listen more in this direction, eh?

Well, thanks for the great posts and inspiration, guys. I guess I've been intimidated by Lemon so far, but it seems like a good direction to go in after working out some of Fuller's slow G blues first. Ari was encouraging me to start learning some Lemon when we got together last week, too.

So much to learn, so little time.

All for now.
John C.

P.S. I think I must have miss-heard you talking about Clifford Gibson once, JohnM. You must have said he plays a lot in Open G and I just heard G
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2005, 09:19:56 AM »
Hi John C.,
I think that the thing that seems to make chromatic runs work well in the key of G in standard tuning is the way the guitar's tuning and the conformation of the hand match up.  When you think about it, the index finger is available for any note you would like to play on any string at the first fret, the second finger is available for notes on the second fret of any string, and notes on the third fret can be handled by the third finger on the bass strings (or any string if you are willing to give up the bass momentarily), and in the treble by the fourth finger.  Open strings take care of themselves.  The key/position just matches up beautifully with an easy way to use the left hand to fret the strings.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2010, 10:03:14 AM »
Hi all,
I was listening in my car this morning on the way down to Seattle and heard a player who did some really nice slow to medium tempo tunes in G position standard tuning:  Curley Weaver.  Two of such songs come close to book-ending his recording career, "Sweet Petunia", from his first session, in Atlanta on October 26, 1928 and "Some Rainy Day", from his final session, in New York, possibly in November of 1949, according to the notes of the JSP "Atlanta Blues" set.  "Sweet Petunia" features some really nifty playing, with a good bit of thumb-popping of the bass strings, which he also employed on "No No Blues" from the same session, and some unusual interior movement on the G string behind the IV chord.  "Some Rainy Day", despite a pretty relaxed tempo, is unusually tricky to play, for Curley did some articulated four-string, triplet drag-throughs with his thumb that are really sporting to try to duplicate.
Curley Weaver is a guitarist who seems constantly to be on the verge of being noticed.  His peers who spoke of him accorded him the greatest respect with regard to his musicianship, and a case could be made for him as the greatest of all country blues guitarists at "seconding".  His unfortunately small number of featured titles show a very high percentage of re-used accompaniments (he recorded the "No No Blues" accompaniment over and over) and it may be that he preferred working in a supporting capacity.  In any event, he was a wonderful guitar player with a lot to offer.
All best,
Johnm

Offline sustaireblues

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2010, 02:00:32 PM »
Hey guys for those like myself, that don't have a strong musical education and also don't have the extensive record collection many of you have, would it be possible to link some video performances of these songs so I can see better what you're describing? I have trouble translating words to music but these posts always fascinate me and make me want to learn more.

Thanks,
Joe

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2010, 02:22:51 PM »
Hi Joe,
What you suggest is a good idea, but in this instance, I don't know of any performances on video of either "Sweet Petunia" or "Some Rainy Day".  It's possible that Little Brother, out of Atlanta, may have some up.  I know he was a friend of Curley's daughter, Cora Mae Bryant, and was pursuing a lot of Curley's material.  I play "Some Rainy Day" a la Curley's arrangement, but don't have a filming set-up.  
On an unrelated note, I've enjoyed seeing your instrument-making process you've provided links to on other sites, Joe.  You really do some beautiful work.
all best,
Johnm
Edited to add:  You can request almost any song that gets mentioned on this site on the Weenie Juke and at least get a chance to hear it.  That's a good option short of buying a ton of CDs.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 02:45:51 PM by Johnm »

Offline Pan

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2010, 04:37:08 PM »
I'll just add, that I've noticed that these days the chance that a tune might exist on YouTube are surprisingly good, especially if it's somewhat well known and in public domain. Just search YouTube.

For example, here's Sweet Petunia:



Edited to add: original versions of course are usually just these kind of "illustrated" recordings, but you can often find cover versions performed as well.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 04:40:06 PM by Pan »

Offline CF

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2010, 04:43:23 PM »
John, thanks for mentioning Mr. Weaver. I was listening to the JSP set only yesterday. He's become one of my favourite musicians in the last couple years. I've been pretty enamoured with his multiple versions of 'No No Blues' & have even been playing it for a while (mind you, often in a 'dumbed-down' version out of a G position). I've been more struck by his voice & his songwriting than anything else. I admit that I'm not paying enough attention to the duets & I don't have a great grasp on who's playing what (with Moss & McTell) so I think i'll make an effort to listen a bit more closely. I do find some of Weaver's duet playing to be a bit on the sloppy side . . . or is that Mctell/Moss? Perhaps strangely, I LIKE THE SLOP.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline sustaireblues

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2010, 06:16:40 PM »
Thanks for the Sweet Petunia post Pan! And you're right, searching youtube gets you a lot to work from. I need the visual to get me in the ballpark of what's going on musically.

And John, thanks for the compliment on my instrument building, means a lot coming from you. I've really done most of my posting on the builder forums where I've learned a bunch but I'm ready to start sharing my builds on some of the players forums now and start getting some feedback.

I will keep on struggling with my playing and no place knows country blues like here at Weenie Campbell!

Thanks guys,
Joe

Offline Johnm

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Re: Slow Blues in G Standard
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2011, 03:04:51 PM »
Hi all,
I've had occasion to run across some particularly nice slow blues played out of G position in standard tuning just recently.  I was listening to Sam Chatmon's Flyright album (thanks, Joe) and found the opening track, "Hollandale Blues" to be a beautiful slow blues in G position (though tuned low), as is Sam's "Ashtray Taxi".  Sam's predilection for G position in standard tuning is a little surprising, for it is a position notably under-utilized by Sam's brother, Bo Carter.  I wonder if some of Sam's nifty moves in this position came from Hacksaw or Eugene Powell (or vice versa)?  It's hard to say at this point . . . .
All best,
Johnm

 


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