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I've been in bigger jails than you've been towns - Arthur Jackson aka Peg Leg Pete aka Peg Leg Sam, in Bruce Bastin's Crying for the Carolines, p.85

Author Topic: The Guitar of Snooks Eaglin--Queries and Tips  (Read 15588 times)

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Offline Johnm

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The Guitar of Snooks Eaglin--Queries and Tips
« on: February 02, 2006, 02:45:54 PM »
Hi all,
Snooks Eaglin does a great version of "St. James Infirmary" on his recently released "New Orleans Street Singer" CD on Smithsonian Folkways, and introduces a couple of nifty touches in his version that some of you might enjoy.
Snooks plays "St. James Infirmary" out of D minor in standard tuning, and opens with a 2-bar intro/vamp as follows:

    | E7flat9--A7#5 | Dminor--A7 |

Snooks's chord voicings are models of efficiency; he is simply voicing the chords on the top three strings with whatever root is appropriate in the bass.  Note that in this scheme the D string is neither fretted nor sounded in the E7flat9 and A7#5 chords.  Voicings are as follows:


   E7flat9: 0XX131  A7#5:  X0X021  Dminor:  XX0231  A7:  X0X223

Once Snooks starts singing the song, he utilizes the following progression for its 8-bar form, for the first verse.  In the first and fifth bars, the Dminor gets two beats, and the Gminor and A7 get one beat apiece.

   | Dminor--Gminor-A7 | Dminor--A7 | Dminor | A7        |
   | Dminor--Gminor-A7 | Dminor | E7flat9--A7#5 | Dminor--A7 |

You can see that the last two bars of the form mirror the intro.  Snooks fingers his G minor chord:  3XX333, and it resolves beautifully into the A7 chord that follows it.  Snooks simplifies the chord progression after the first verse by eliminating the A7 chord in the first and fifth bars and choosing instead to split those bars between D minor and G minor.  This less busy sound swings harder.  Occasionally Snooks substitutes an A7 chord for the A7#5 in the next to last measure of the form.

At the conclusion of the last verse, Snooks tacks on two instrumental repetitions of the last two bars (leaving out the A7 following the D minor chord), thus book-ending the sung portion of the rendition with the same intro/outro.

If you wanted to vary the intro/outro there are a lot of cool options available that are not notably more difficult than the chord voicings Snooks used.  One possible alternative:

   Bflat7: X1X131  A7#5:  X0X021 Dminor: XX0231 Bminor7flat5:  X2X231

Another:

   E7flat9/B:  X2X131 Bflatminor6:  X1X021 Dminor/A:  X0X231 Dminor/C:  X3X231

There are lots of other options you can select.  I think because of the minor tonality of "St.James Infirmary" and its Trad Jazz origins it holds up pretty robustly to harmonic variation--certainly much moreso than, say, a Henry Thomas song, which would sound pretty violated if you worked to create harmonic "interest" by adding a lot of Jazzy voicings.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 12, 2017, 09:46:40 AM by Johnm »

J bone

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2007, 02:48:58 PM »
I just found this post, I've been looking for a breakdown of this tune for quite some time.  The only one I found was the Arlo Guthrie version which is quite a bit different (but still pretty good).  I like the Snooks version, it's very laidback and just kind of rolls along. 

I've been trying to figure out how Snooks plays these songs, does he finger pick and strum with his fingers, or is he using a flatpick?  It sounds like a bass guitar playing the bass line, but I imagine it's probably him playing the bass with his thumb.  I just don't know how he would get that strumming sound while thumping away at the steady bass.

Anyway, Thanks John for this post!

-Jay

Offline Rivers

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2007, 04:02:45 PM »
Check out this thread in which I asked the same question:
http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=114&topic=1953.0

Also clicking on the Snooks tag at the bottom of this thread will get you all the tagged Snooks threads.

J bone

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2007, 04:45:21 PM »
Thanks for the link Rivers!  I'll check it out. 

Those tags are a pretty cool feature.  I just discovered this forum and I haven't seen those on any of the other forums I've visited.  I think I'll be checking in more often here.

Thanks again.

Offline Johnm

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2007, 05:06:34 PM »
Hi Jay,
Welcome to Weenie Campbell if you've just arrived recently!  According to Lindy, a long-time Weenie and resident of New Orleans, Snooks played thumb and index only in the right hand when he saw him perform on several occasions, and I imagine he has employed pretty much the same right hand approach throughout his career.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2012, 10:46:11 AM »
Hi all,
Pan found this wonderful video of Snooks Eaglin and posted it over on facebook (thank, Pan!).  I thought to add it here.  It's not Country Blues of course, but it is so great, and it's actually not all that far removed from the harmonic language of things like Virgil Childers' version of "Travellin' Man" or "Preacher And The Bear".  Here's the video:





For any of you who might be interested in figuring it out and playing it, here's the progression for "Lipstick Traces"

   ||:    F    |    F    |    Em7   |    A7    |

   |    Dm   |   Dm   |   Cm7   |    F9    |

   |    Bb     |  Bdim7  |  F    A7  |    D7   |
                                                1
   |    G7     |C7 (stop) |  F   Bb  |  C aug  :||
                                                2
                                               |    F       |
BRIDGE
   |     C7    |   C7 Caug |     F      |   F  A7   |

   | Dm   Dm7  |   G7    |    C7   |  C7  Caug  |
OUT A
   |    F    |   F      |    Em7    |    A7    |

   |    Dm    |    Dm    |    Cm7    |    F9    |

   |    Bb      |  B dim7   |  F     A7   |    D7   |

   |    G7     |   C7 (break)  |   F   Bb   |  F   (C7)  |

In the ending vamp, they're playing
   ||:  F   A7   |     Dm    :||

Snooks was such an ace, and his mastery of F was wonderful to behold.

All best,
Johnm     
 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2012, 05:08:15 AM »
With eyes closed one could almost almost be forgiven for thinking it was Benny Spellman himself singing this. Over time there have been may attempts at this Allen Toussaint penned classic but this nails it. The bassist looks to me like George Porter.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2012, 06:40:10 AM »
Yes indeed. He's so free in what he does and it always comes out really tasteful..

I see the song is included on his Out Of Nowhere CD, same arrangement: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000005YWM/ref=dm_dp_cdp?ie=UTF8&s=music. The rest of the CD, from listening to the samples, seems to be straight ahead R&B and jazzy blues, which is OK by me.

Offline Rockdale

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Re: Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2012, 09:13:32 AM »
This is such a cool song and I love George Porter Jr.'s vocals on this one. It looks like they were having a lot of fun playing it, too.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2012, 11:11:44 AM »
Hi all,
I realized this morning that "Lipstick Traces" bears more than a passing resemblance to a song that has already been discussed here in the "Rag Blues and Circle of Fifths" thread at:  http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=712.msg8074#msg8074 , Leroy Carr's "Longing For My Sugar".  "Longing For My Sugar" is a 12-bar blues, unlike "Lipstick Traces", which is a 32-bar Pop song form, but look at the progression of "Longing For My Sugar", and you'll see that the progression for the A parts of "Lipstick Traces" employs essentially the same progression, but writ large, and in a bit more harmonic detail.  Here's "Longing For My Sugar", transposed to F, the key Snooks performed "Lipstick Traces" in.

   |   F    |   A7   |    Dm    |    F7    |

   |  Bb   | Bdim7 |    F      |    D7    |

   |  G7   |   C7    | turn-|  around   |

In both songs, the initial harmonic movement is from I major to it's relative minor, VI minor, from which you move into IV and then a I-VI-II-V-I circle of fifths, with the VI, II and V chords all dominant sevenths.  "Lipstick Traces" doubles up all the lengths in which chords are held at the front end of the progression, and unlike "Longing For My Sugar", which always gets to the next key area via the V7 of that key area, e.g., A7 for D minor and F7 for Bflat, "Lipstick Traces" effects the movement to different key areas with a IIm7--V7 progression, e.g., Em7-A7 for D minor and Cm7-F7 for Bflat.  If you look at "Lipstick Traces" progression, in the A parts, at the roots of the odd numbered measures, you get a descending major scale, as per:
  F--Em7--Dminor--Cminor7--Bflat--A7--G7--F.
As Mel Allen used to say, "How about that!"
This same progression was utilized, with minor tweaks, by Charlie Parker for his tune, "Confirmation", and, at least, through the IV chord, by Harry Warren for his great standard, "There Will Never Be Another You".  It's a wonderful progression, really a great ride, and fun to improvise over, and it has the additional benefit of being able to accommodate completely different sorts of melodies.  If you've any doubt of the different melodic possibilities implicit in this progression, go to YouTube and search for renditions of "Confirmation" and "There Will Never Be Another You", bearing in mind that they have very close to the same progression as "Lipstick Traces".  And it's especially cool when you reflect that the progression comes right out of the blues tradition.
All best,
Johnm     
« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 11:38:10 AM by Johnm »

Offline Pan

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Re: Snooks Eaglin--"Lipstick Traces"
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2012, 12:24:29 PM »
Thanks John, that's really interesting.

I've usually associated these types of changes to  bebop, even in the 12-blues format. Like with Parker's "Blues For Alice", and such. It's nice to know that our blues heroes came up with these kind of changes even earlier on!

 Here's a chart for "Blues For Alice" (I couldn't find an original YouTube video with Parker).



Here's a video of the Leroy Carr And Scrapper Blackwell tune, "Longing For My Sugar" (frustratingly cutting short of the song):



Cheers

Pan
« Last Edit: January 15, 2012, 12:27:25 PM by Pan »

Offline JebusKryst

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 03:28:20 AM »
Thank JohnM,

I've only recently heard about Snooks and this version of St James Infirmary just blew me away!
I'm definately going to learn this version with the help of your breakdown.

Just thought I'd pop my head up and say thanks.

Also, this is an incredible site! I've only just stumbled across it but I think I'm gonna stick around for a while!

Offline jostber

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Re: "St. James Infirmary"--Snooks Eaglin
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2012, 03:31:30 AM »
Thank JohnM,

I've only recently heard about Snooks and this version of St James Infirmary just blew me away!
I'm definately going to learn this version with the help of your breakdown.

Just thought I'd pop my head up and say thanks.

Also, this is an incredible site! I've only just stumbled across it but I think I'm gonna stick around for a while!

That's right, you will find a lot of great information on the early blues here. :) The complete Snooks Eaglin discograhpy:

http://www.wirz.de/music/eaglin.htm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Guitar of Snooks Eaglin--Queries and Tips
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2017, 09:48:47 AM »
Hi all,
I merged two threads on Snooks' playing of "St. James Infirmary" and "Lipstick Traces" to start a "Snooks Eaglin Guitar" thread.  It seemed like he merited it, and I think the interest is there.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Guitar of Snooks Eaglin--Queries and Tips
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2017, 03:10:27 PM »
Hi all,
I was searching around on youtube last week, looking for tunes to put in the puzzler thread, and came across this song by Snooks Eaglin, "By The Water", evidently recorded for Imperial in 1960.  It's really more R & B or Soul than blues, so it seemed more appropriate to talk about it in a separate post.  Here is Snooks' performance of "By The Water":



Snooks starts out with a bright sound on the guitar, and as I listened through and he arrives at the turn-around towards the end of the form it became apparent that he was playing out of Bflat position, not as Papa Charlie Jackson did, using X-1-3-3-3-3 as his home position for his I chord, but instead working out of an E shape up the neck, either barred or with a thumb wrap--6-X-8-7-6-6.  Snooks sounds completely comfortable and unconstrained by his grabby I chord, which really ties the left hand up.  He rocks a lot to his IV chord, Eb, which he frets 6-6-8-8-8-6, another grabby voicing, without it impeding his flow in any way.  The song has a 16-bar progression, that Snooks varies in subtle ways in its three verses.  For a song of this type, it is perhaps a bit unusual in that it doesn't have a bridge.  Here is his progression, and the song is played with an underlying triple feel, in 6/8.
 Verse 1
  F7 ||  Bb  Eb  |  Bb  F7  |    Bb    |    Bb7   |

       |    Eb       |     Eb     |  Edim7 | Edim7  |

       |    Bb       |     G7     |    C7    |    F7    |

       | Bb   Bb7  |      Eb    |    Bb    |     F7    |
  Verse 2
       |     Bb      |      F7     |     Bb   |    Bb7   |

       |     Eb      |      Eb     | Edim7 | Edim7   |

       |    Bb        |     G7     |    C7    |    F7     |

       |  Bb   Bb7  | Eb  Ebm |   Bb     |    F7    |
    Verse 3
       |     Bb      |     F7       |    Bb     |    Bb7  |

       |    Eb       |     Eb       |  Edim7  | Edim7 |

       |     Bb      |     G7       |   C7      |    F7   |

       |  Bb   Bb7 | Eb Bbdim7 |  Bb Faug  |   Bb9  |

As it turned out, the chord voicing that made it possible to identify Snooks' playing position as Bb was the G7 chord, for Snooks chose to use the open "Cowboy Chord" voicing, 3-X-0-0-0-1, which with the sound of its open strings lives in only one place on the guitar.  Having that chord oriented made it possible to put everything else in place in relationship to that chord.
This seems an awfully pretty song to me, and I think it could be a good candidate for a jug band or small ensemble version, especially if the 6/8 meter was jettisoned, and the song was done with a 4/4 or cut time feel.  With such a nice progression, it could also make a nice solo guitar piece.  Anybody care to give it a try (doesn't have to be in Bb!)?
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: February 15, 2017, 03:16:34 PM by Johnm »

 


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