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Now a short haired woman waiting for to carry your troubles on. Make you think through the daytime, trouble you all night long. She make you think you right, when you know darn well you wrong - Will Batts, Country Woman

Author Topic: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics  (Read 21207 times)

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Online Johnm

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Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« on: June 06, 2005, 06:21:30 PM »
Hi all,
I have been particularly getting into the music of Ishmon Bracey recently, and one of his great numbers is mistitled "The Four Day Blues"; it should be "The 'Fore Day Blues".  In any event, Bracey recorded two takes of it on August 31, 1928.  The lyrics differ somewhat on the two takes, and I have transcribed the lyrics to Take 1 here. 
Ishmon Bracey played this tune out of A position, standard tuning, though it's a misnomer to describe anything about his tuning as standard.  His A string is noticeably sharp, and yet the over-all effect, for reasons I don't understand, is really strong.  His accompaniment is very originally conceived.  I don't know anyone else who sounded like this in A.  His time is very straight-up-and-down, with an almost jerky quality somewhat like Robert Wilkins's time on "I'll Go With Her" and "Falling Down Blues".  Best of all, to my taste at least, is Bracey's singing, a really fierce and intense headtone placed right behind the bridge of his nose and adenoids.  He's just buzzing!  This is a great track.



   Woke up this morning, mama, 'tween midnight and day
   Woke up this morning, mama, 'tween midnight and day
   I reached for my sugar and the fool had stoled away

   Worried now, mama, and I can't be worried long
   Worried now, mama, and I shan't be worried long
   Mama, 'fore I'd be treated, be on the county farm

   Wouldn't treat a dog, babe, like you treat me
   Wouldn't treat a dog, babe, like you treat me
   Wouldn't treat a dog, babe, like you treat me

   Woke up soon this morning with my face all full of frowns
   Woke up this morning, mama, with my face all full of frowns
   I didn't have no sugar now to squeeze up in my arms

   Mama, that's all right, sugar, that's all right for you
   That's all right, mama, that's all right for you
   Well you know you got me just the way you do

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 06:57:08 AM by Johnm »

Online Johnm

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2005, 05:01:05 PM »
Hi all,
Another great Ishmon Bracey number is "Trouble Hearted Blues". It was recorded on the same date as "The Four Day Blues", and is likewise played out of the A position in standard tuning (pitched as though with a capo on the second fret). Like "Four Day", it has two takes, the first of which was never issued prior to its appearance on the great old Yazoo anthology, "Jackson Blues".
It is an amazing cut, both instrumentally and vocally. Like "Four Day" it combines conceptual originality with a relatively simple accompaniment technically that ends up providing a great backdrop for Bracey's singing. The tuning on "Trouble Hearted Blues" is even weirder than on "Four Day"--on Take One, the first four strings are pretty well in tune, the A string is sharp, and the 6th string E is flat. On Take 2, The A and E strings are a little better in tune, but the first and second strings are less well in tune with each other. Ishmon accelerates markedly during the course of both renditions.
I would put Bracey's vocal on this tune very near the top of the heap as far as Country Blues singing goes. He sounds as though he was closing his mouth on the consonant sounds that end words like "long", "in", etc., but continuing to move a lot of air and sort of hum/buzz.? The effect is remarkable, and descriptions can't begin to get you close to the sound.
The song's form is one of a kind. It is sort of an 8-bar blues, but Bracey stretches phrase lengths throughout to accommodate however long he wishes to hold the note ending the phrase. I can think of no better example of a vocal driving the phrasing, and providing justification for varying phrasing throughout a tune.
I prefer Take 1, though the tuning is a little farther off the norm. It's a bit more deliberate sounding, and I particularly like Bracey's slowness towards the front end of the song. Bracey's swallowed mode of enunciation makes transcribing the lyrics a challenge.? You may hear some of these differently, and if you do, I would be very interested to know what you hear.



Down so long, down don't worry me
I been down so long, Lord, down don't worry me

Don't b'lieve I'm sinking, see what a hole I'm in
You don't b'lieve I love you, Lord, think what a fool I've been

Went to the graveyard, fell down on my knees
Hollered, "Lord have mercy from this lonesome place."

Went to the graveyard, peeped in my rider's face
Says, "I love you rider, Lord, just can't take your place."

Thousand people (sp. Lord have mercy!) 'round the burying ground
Just to see them won't you, Lord, let my rider down

Felt so sorry (sp. Rock, Church, Rock!) 'til they let her down
Lord, my heart struck sorrow, tears come rolling down

Tell me, mama, (sp. unnh, unnh, unnh) what's the matter now?
Tryin' to quit your daddy, Lord, and you don't know how

Tell me mama, on your worried mind
Times don't get no better, mama, babe I'm gwine, I'm gwine

Give this one a listen. It is most definitely NOT like everything else out there. Does anybody know if Bracey was recorded in his post-rediscovery period? By all accounts, he was doing religious material only, like Robert Wilkins. I would love to hear anything by him from that period.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 09:44:18 AM by Johnm »

Offline Slack

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2005, 08:09:22 PM »
These look good to me John.  I think I might hear "girl" instead of "lord" in the first two verses.... not that it makes any difference.

Interesting to compare the two takes.  #2 includes a couple of different verses toward the end -- but I thought it was interesting and a bit odd that within the first set of verses shared with #1 he uses the same spoken parts, but on different verses -- that "unnh, unnh, unnh" sure is a weird utterance, eh?

Cheers,
slack

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2005, 10:08:36 PM »
Hi John D.,
I know what you mean about the spoken asides.  You sort of expect them to be the most spontaneous aspect of the performance and to have them repeated intact, but matched up with different verses in the different takes is kind of surprising.  I had a hard time with the "Lord" in the early verses.  At first I thought he was saying "don't" and doing a kind of stammering thing, but then distinctly heard him say "Lord" in the later verses and so thought he might be doing it throughout the song.  It is sure hard to hear.
Could you get the tail end of the verse beginning "If anybody ask you, who wrote this song . . ." in Take 2?  I haven't figured that one out yet.  Boy, what a sound Ishmon Bracey made.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2005, 07:45:43 AM »
Quote
You sort of expect them to be the most spontaneous aspect of the performance

Yes, everything is mix and match -- including the spoken asides!

Quote
"If anybody ask you, who wrote this song . . ." in Take 2?

I'll give a closer listen this evening...

Offline phhawk

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2005, 09:37:52 AM »
Howdy all, Listening to take 1 of Trouble Hearted Blues; to me it sounds like he sings, "Trying to please your daddy" (not quit). "But you don't know how". Which would suggest that this song is about a love triangle where his mistress is the one that died and if his regular can't get it together, "I'm Gwine, I'm Gwine.

About the spoken asides. They may haved been added by Charlie McCoy as suggested in "Blues And Gospel Records..." by Dixon & Godrich. If you listen close; it does sound like a different voice.

I didn't see any record of him recording after the Paramount sessions in 1930. Also, I've always seen his name spelled as Ishman rather than Ishmon.

I've always preferred his solo sides, rather than the sides recorded with Charlie McCoy, as I also preferred Tommy Johnson's solo sides. No disrespect to Charlie McCoy, but the solo sides always seem so much more personal and its amazing to hear how each of these guys structure their guitar accompaniment to go along with their vocal phrasing. I especially like Bracey's guitar work on Four Day Blues and Johnson's guitar work on Canned Heat Blues and Big Fat Mamma Blues. In each of these its like the guitar phrases and the vocal phrases are two different songs layered one over the other to create one incredible piece.

Finally Johmm, I really appreciated you posts about Peg Leg Howell. Personally, I think he is underated. Great guitar and very versatile. One of my favorites of his for great guitar work and vocal phrasing is Turtle Dove Blues.

One other thing, I think that one of the reasons that these guys often speed up the tempo is that the recording engineer may have signaled them to pick it up or they would run out of time. In any case, it often seems to add the quality of the performance.

Later, Phil 


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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2005, 01:56:23 PM »
Hi Phil,
Thanks very much for your thoughts.  You and I may the only people who feel this way, but I agree with you about preferring both Bracey's and Tommy Johnson's solo guitar accompaniments to those on which they are joined by Charlie McCoy (though I like Charlie's mandolin playing with Bracey).  Charlie's guitar playing on "Big Road Blues" and "Saturday Blues", and especially his predilection for noodly tremolo take up a lot of sound space from solo guitar parts that would be better by themselves, in my opinion.  I've been working on Bracey's part for "Saturday Blues", and it is unbelievably cool (and partially drowned out).

I got the spelling Ishmon from David Evans's notes to the Yazoo "Jackson Blues" album, in which he indicates that it was Bracey's own preferred spelling of his name.

I can hear the word "quit" very clearly in the verse in "Trouble Hearted", and I can hear neither the p nor the s sound from "please".  That, combined with the fact that the line, "tryin' to quit your daddy and you don't know how" is a Blues lyric cliche, make me think that's what Bracey was saying.

I think you may be right about the engineers or A & R guys hurrying musicians to fit a song in, so that renditions accelerate.  I know on Furry Lewis's "Mistreating Mama Blues", he stops so abruptly he sounds like he got the hook.  Some players just speed up, too.  Mance Lipscomb always sped up, and he was from the LP era where song length was not an issue.

I'm glad you like Peg Leg Howell, too.  I think he was great.  Can you post an mp3 of "Turtle Dove"?  I can't get the Juke.

Thanks for joining in the discussion, Phil.  I've got some more on the way.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2005, 02:04:20 PM »
Quote
About the spoken asides. They may haved been added by Charlie McCoy as suggested in "Blues And Gospel Records..." by Dixon & Godrich. If you listen close; it does sound like a different voice.

Hi Phil, thanks -- yes, it does sound like a different voice and would explain the oddity! ... I can quit scratching my head now...

cheers,

Offline phhawk

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2005, 03:14:48 PM »
Hello John, I don't know how to do an mp3 or whatever it is, but if you want to email your address I can burn a CD of Turtle Dove Blues and mail it to you. The other side of Turtle Dove is also great "Waking Blues" (sic). I presume they meant "Walking Blues". I also have some other nice Peg Leg material. I use an old CD burner and i don't know how to burn a CD with a computer.

I think your right about these guys speeding up the tempo. Sometimes it probably was a signal from the engineer to speed it up but a lot of the time it was just part of the performance. Peg Leg speeds up "Turtle Dove Blues" and it works beauitifully. However, I think most of these Blues guys were lucky to get a chance at a 2nd take, as the recording companies did not want to spend a lot money on masters for Country Blues performers. It seems to me that I read somewhere that was one of the reasons there are so few Tommy Johnson recordings;  because of his alcoholism, he had a tendancy to screw up masters which the record companies did not think it was worth the expense of new masters. But don't quote me on that.

I listened to "Trouble Hearted Blues" and your probably right about "quit" rather than "please" but on my record, which is a like new copy, it sounds like there is a "P" in there but your right about no "ese". You'll have to admit, my version would be a lot more intriguing.

So you're saying that Bracey said "call me Ishmon". That's good enough for me.

Later, Phil

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2005, 04:54:04 PM »
Hi all,
Perhaps Ishmon Bracey's greatest numbers was "Woman, Woman Blues", which must be counted as one of the strongest 8-bar blues ever recorded. ?Bracey played it in E, standard tuning, and each verse is followed by an instrumental interlude which is like an advertisement for the benefits of putting an unwound G string on your guitar. It is great playing, abounding with extreme bends, and free strumming and brush strokes from both thumb and fingers; a real showpiece.
Bracey's vocal on this one is hair-raising. He sings the first half of the second line of each verse in a rasty falsetto, resolving to full voice for the conclusion of the line. His vocal placement makes transcription of the lyrics really tough. I will put lyrics I question in bent brackets, but you may hear other changes you would like to make.



Woman, woman, woman, woman
Lord, what'n the world you trying to do?
Crazy baby you treat me
Break my heart in two

I got a woman, good little woman
She's got coal black, curly hair
Now and every time she smile, Lord,
Lightning's everywhere

Now got a woman, good little woman
She ain't a thing but a stavin' chain
See, she's a married woman and I'm
Scared to call her name

Treat me like, treat your baby
Won't you take me, 'round and 'round?
Says when you let me down, Lord,
Take me down and 'round

Now these blues, blues ain't nothin'
Lord, but a doggone hungry spell
Got no money in your pocket and you
Barely keep it here

And I went, went to the depot
Lord, I read up on the board
Says your baby ain't here she's a
Long ways up the road

I got to settin', settin' down studyin'
'Bout my old time used-to-be
Lord, I studied so hard 'til the
Blues crept up on me

In the first verse, "cause the way" would make perfect sense, but it really sounds like he's saying "crazy baby". I really like the last verse. I started re-reading the section on Bracey in Gayle Dean Wardlow's "Chasing The Devil's Music". It's fascinating and quotes Bracey at length. Thanks for any help with the lyrics.
All best,
Johnm

Edited to add: I got the title of Wardlow's book wrong. It should be "Chasin' That Devil Music".
Re-edited to make lyric changes as per Frank Basile's suggestions.
Re-edited 6/2/05 to make change in fourth verse.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 09:41:21 AM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2005, 06:40:55 PM »
Just a reminder about Chasin' That Devil Music. It does have postwar recordings of Bracey, of a sort: a couple brief interview segments. I sure would love to hear the rest of those interview recordings.

Woman, Woman is my favorite Bracey tune I think, although Saturday Blues is right up there. Bracey seems to have been one weird dude, but when he nailed things he was as mesmerizing as Skip James.

Offline dj

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2005, 03:52:22 AM »
Quote
I think most of these Blues guys were lucky to get a chance at a 2nd take

In the 1920s, before the Depression hit, when everyone had lots of money and a hit Blues record could sell tens of thousands of copies, second takes were common practice.  But once the depression hit and a thousand copies of a record was a good sale, record companies quickly eliminated second takes.  See Dixon and Goodrich's Recording The Blues.  Second takes by no means completely disappeared.  It's interesting that second takes survive of so many of Robert Johnson's songs, even though the first takes are always at least acceptable, and Johnson was a comparative nobody at the time he recorded.

Even Paramount probably did two takes of a song through 1929, though most unissued takes were been lost when the pieces of the company were sold off.

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2005, 09:55:23 PM »
Hi all,
One of Bracey's early recorded numbers was "Leavin' Town Blues", for which he was joined by Charlie McCoy on mandolin.  As with "Trouble Hearted Blues" and "Four Day Blues", two takes survive, and also as in the case with those two songs, the takes are not identical with regard to tempo or lyrics. 
Bracey plays Take 1 of "Leavin Town Blues" out of G position in standard tuning, pitched around A, which would make it a very good mandolin key.  (Take 2 is pitched higher, closer to B flat, and since the two takes were recorded the same day, it seems likely that the tempo of one of the takes was altered.  I would guess Take 2.)  Bracey's playing is strong here, and sounds like it may have provided the model for Tommy McClennan's style of playing in G.  The integration of the guitar and mandolin parts is really good.  This would be a great mandolin/guitar duet to work up, and it is not exactly  suffering from over-exposure. 
Bracey's vocal sounds great but is not quite as extreme in it's tone as on "Trouble Hearted Blues" and "Four Day Blues", recorded later in the same day.



   Now, tell you, mama, now, I'm sure gonna leave this town (2)
   'Cause I been in trouble ever since I sot my suitcase down

   Now you don't believe I'm leavin', just watch the train I'm on (2)
   Now you don't believe I'm [looking?], just count the days I'm gone

   Now, I ain't gonna be your, your teasin' brown no more
   Mama, and I ain't gonna be your, your teasin' brown no more
   Sugar, the way you do me, you make my blood run cold

   Now, 'fore I stay here, mama, and be treated this-a-way
   Mama, 'fore I stay here, now, and be treated this-a-way
   Now I let some freight train [stole?] me every day

   Mmmm, Lord, oh Lord, oh, oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord (2)
   Now the woman I'm lovin;, she treat me like some mangy dog

   Now, looky yonder, sugar, where the risin' sun done gone
   Mmmm, looky yonder, sugar, where the risin' sun done gone
   I'd be way over here mama, a long ways from my home

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 06:59:38 AM by Johnm »

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2005, 12:01:22 AM »
Hi all,
Another duet pairing Ishmon Bracey on guitar and Charlie McCoy on mandolin was "Brown Mama Blues".  Like "Leavin' Town Blues", it was played by Ishmon in G position, standard tuning.  Once again it is strong playing, although it is more oriented towards single string runs than "Leavin' Town Blues"



   Won't you tell me, mama, mama, what have I said or done? (2)
   Woman, you treat me like my trouble just begun

   Mmm, mama, mama, mama, there's something worryin' me (2)
   I ain't caring none of my best woman, it's my old time used-to-be

   Now, you be my rider and I'll tell you what I'll do
   Girl, would you be my rider, woman, I'll tell you what I'll do
   I will rob and steal and I'll bring it home to you

   See the sun went down, now, and left me lonesome here
   See the sun went down, mama, and left me so lonesome here
   Ah, the sun went down, left me so lonesome here

   Take this lonesome place don't seem like home to me
   Mama, this lonesome place don't seem like home to me
   And this lonesome place don't seem like home to me.

   Lord, it's soon in the mornin' gonna be my leavin' here
   Mama, it's soon in the mornin' gonna be my leavin' here
   Lord, it's soon in the mornin' be my leavin' here

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 07:00:23 AM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Ishmon Bracey's Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2005, 05:09:11 AM »
I've been listening to "Woman, Woman" since last night - I don't hear anything terribly different from your take on it.  I think "Crazy baby" sounds like what he's saying in the first verse and although a couple of sensible alternatives suggest themselves ("'cause the way", "Baby, the way"), it doesn't sound like anything "sensible!"  At the top of the third verse, I hear "Now" rather than "Yonder" and "ain't a thing" rather than "ain't anything."  Jeez - the next verse...  he could be singing "down, Lord" rather than "down there," but I can't say for sure.  The next line could be "down and out"...  if he is singing "around" there, he's leaving off the 'a' - singing just "'round."  The rest seems right to me, near as I can make out - it's almost like he sings without opening his mouth.  His voice just resonates directly out of his head!  Great song - when he lights into that interlude between the verses - man...  that's just incredible.  And the last verse is a killer!

 


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