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Author Topic: One of a Kind--and Great  (Read 14678 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #30 on: November 22, 2006, 09:51:19 AM »
Hi Alex,
I just dug out "Walkin' Across The Country" because I didn't have the sound of it in my head, and you are dead right--it's one for the books.  The way Blake uses those diminished shapes to play chord melody in the first two bars of the two set-up line phrases is something I don't recall hearing before, in Blues at least.  Ditto the ascending phrase, which if anything, is even more unusual.  I wonder if Ari has figured this one out?  It would seem to be right up his alley.  That's a great find.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #31 on: June 11, 2009, 12:36:18 PM »
Hi all,
I've had occasion recently to re-visit Bo Carter's "Who's Been Here?", in the course of doing a transcription of it for a student.  It was the opening number on the old Yazoo re-issue, 1014, "Bo Carter's Greatest Hits", and I think Nick Perls deserves a lot of credit for being one of the first serious public listeners to the music not to dismiss Bo's music out of hand purely on the basis of his often smutty lyric content.  
I recorded "Who's Been Here?" on my first Blue Goose album, and I suppose I understood it well enough then to sing and play it, but the process of transcribing it has made me realize how little I understood it structurally.  It is not really a Blues, in terms of its phrasing, but, like "Twist It, Babe" and "Pussy Cat Blues", is more like a children's song, employing only the I and V chords.  Its phrasing is highly irregular.  Bo played it out of his G tuning, DGDGBE, and it opens with a 15-bar solo, with the following form.  Presume 4 beats per measure unless otherwise indicated.

   |  G   |   G   |   G   |

   |  D7  |   D7  |D7(3 beats) G(3 beats) |   G   |

   |   G   |   G   |   G   |

   |  D7(6 beats) |  D7   |   D7 (6 beats) |

   |   G(6 beats) |   G   |

When looked at this way, the phrasing looks almost pointlessly complicated, but that is certainly not the impression you get in listening to Bo's playing--it is driving and strong, with tremendous syncopation and a powerful rhythmic engine.  

The verses employ a 14-bar form, and are perfectly consistent in the metric treatment of the phrasing.  Each verse comes in two parts, with the opening of the second half of the verse coming out of the tagline of the first half, like:

   Baby, who been here
   Since your daddy been gone?
   Says, he must have been a preacher, daddy,
   Had a long coat on
  
   He had a long coat on,
   He had a long coat on,
   Says, he must have been a preacher, daddy,
   Had a long coat on

Each verse prior to Bo's mid-song solo conforms to this general lay-out, with the same opening two lines, the final two lines of the first half repeated as the final two lines of the second half, and the first two lines of the second half coming out of the tagline of the first half.  Bo's singing of the lyrics is quite syncopated and he is phrasing way in front of the beat.  All of the vocal phrases start on the + of beats, so the resulting emphasis has a strong counter-punching sort of feel.   He actually starts the verse with pick-up notes on on the + of the first beat in the measure preceding the down beat of the form, and there are very flashy instrumental responses between the vocal phrases.  The first verse phrases out like so (note that the double bars indicate the beginning and ending of the form):

| 1  + 2  +    3  +   4     +   || 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1  +  2    +   3   +     4     +    |        
     Baaaby, who   been here (response)                  Since your daddy been gone
| 1  + 2  +   3 + 4 +  5  + 6   +|   1      +     2   +  3     +    4   +  5  + 6   +   |
                                  Well, it  must have been a preacher,      daaady,
|  1   +   2   +   3   +   4   +   | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1  +   2    +   3   +   4    +   |    
       Haaad  a  long    coat on    (response)               He had  a  long    coat on    
|   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +|   1   +   2    +   3   +   4    +   |  1 + 2  +  3 + 4 + 5 +  6  +  |  
 (response)                    He had  a  long    coat on                                 Well, it
|  1     +     2    +   3    +     4   +  5    +   6  +   | 1    +   2  +   3    +   4     +    |
 must have been a  preacher,     daaaaady,                  Haaad a   long     coat on
|  1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +|  1   +   2   +   3   +  4     +     ||
(response)                   Baaaaby, who   been here

There is a childrens song in the Appalachian tradition that has very similar phrasing:

   Who's been here since I been gone
   Pretty little gal with a red dress on
   She took it off and I put it on
   Pretty little gal with a red dress on

Hearing what Bo did with his childrens song sort of material makes me think we all might be missing a bet by not examining some of the songs we learned as kids.  They might have real potential for something driving and distinctive in the style, like "Who's Been Here?".  I remember Big Joe Williams did "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" on his Folkways album, and it was as tough sounding as you would expect it to be.  This type of material is one of the meeting grounds of the black and white American folk traditions, and it's great stuff.  If you haven't heard Bo do "Who's Been Here?", seek it out--it really is sensational.
All best,
Johnm                  
    
« Last Edit: June 11, 2009, 12:51:36 PM by Johnm »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #32 on: June 11, 2009, 01:18:24 PM »
Quote
"River Line Blues" was first recorded on Shirley's '60s album on Prestige Bluesville, "Saturday Blues".  He plays it out of E, standard tuning, and the way his guitar part interacts with his vocal is really exciting.

I just discovered this thread and wanted to add my praise for this extraordinary performance of Shirley Griffith's.
That album remains for me, after all these years, one of the most satisfying blues records I own. What a terrific and under-recognized musician he was.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #33 on: June 11, 2009, 01:38:01 PM »
I just discovered this thread and wanted to add my praise for this extraordinary performance of Shirley Griffith's.
That album remains for me, after all these years, one of the most satisfying blues records I own. What a terrific and under-recognized musician he was.
He commands half a dozen Weenie "tags" which are individually worth checking out.

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #34 on: June 11, 2009, 02:11:43 PM »
I couldn't agree with you more, O'Muck and Bunker Hill, concerning Shirley Griffith's musical excellence.  His Prestige Bluesville solo album was superb, and so was his Blue Goose album.  I used to have his Prestige duo album with his buddy, J. T. Adams, and stupidly let it go at some point.  Griffith was a wonderful player and singer, and I was fortunate to see him perform twice.  He was missing the index finger on his left hand, a horrible misfortune for a guitarist, as a result of a grisly childhood accident involving a game played with an axe.
Re "Who's Been Here?" and blues musicians performing childrens songs, I just remembered that the great Jimmy Lee Williams, on Fat Possum, recorded "Little Boy Blue".
All best,
Johnm

Offline jostber

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #35 on: June 11, 2009, 02:22:09 PM »
Montana Taylor's "I Can't Sleep" is something else too. Wonderful song.


Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #36 on: October 22, 2009, 09:54:47 PM »
Hi all,
I returned to John Hurt's "Candyman" to teach it today, and I had forgotten what a remarkable piece it is.  The solo is like nothing else I have heard in the style, and it's distinctive sound is accentuated by the bass being one chord change ahead of the chord it is backing at the beginning of the solo.  Working with this piece reminded me that I think that John Hurt, for all of his acclaim and popularity among present-day Country Blues fans, is pretty significantly under-rated as a musician.  There are so many pieces he did that are not like anything done by other people in the same position/tuning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2009, 06:10:27 AM »
Quote
is pretty significantly under-rated as a musician

I completely agree John. He also got the absolute most variety out of any chord he played. His right hand work was terrifically inventive, wittily illustrating parts of the songs narrative, yet always remaining solidly rhythmic. I can tell how much he's got going in the right hand by how much thinking and anticipating I have to do while playing his songs and also how tired my right hand gets doing it. I've always loved his music and it just continues to grow for me as time rolls on.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #38 on: January 07, 2010, 05:44:08 PM »
Hi all,
I had occasion to re-transcribe Mance Lipscomb's "Ain't You Sorry" for a lesson today, and is it ever a piece of work--oof!  Structurally, it is simplicity itself, an 8-bar progression in G, standard tuning, like so,

   |    E7    |    E7    |    A7    |    A7    |

   |    D     |     D     |    G     |     G     |

but Mance's incredibly funky thumbwork setting up the Latin groove in which he starts the song makes it a uniquely exciting number.  He accelerates throughout the course of the rendition, as was usual for him, and is just screaming along by the time he gets to the end.  Mance Lipscomb was such a fecund source of musical ideas.  He really was one of the most consistently inventive guitarists the genre ever produced.  In the LP configuration on Arhoolie, "Ain't You Sorry" was the second track on "Mance Lipscomb, Texas Sharecropper and Songster, Volume 4".  I will check at the Arhoolie website to see which of his many CDs it shows up on.  Oops--turns out I have it, on Mance Lipscomb, "Captain, Captain", Texas Songster, Vol. 3", Arhoolie CD 465.  This one is worth seeking out, folks.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #39 on: May 09, 2010, 11:46:14 PM »
Hi all,
I've had occasion recently to study and work out Ishmon Bracey's "Four Day Blues", and I believe it most certainly qualifies for this thread.  I had always thought the song (mis-titled by the record company--it should be "'Fore Day Blues") was an unusually interesting sort of riff tune in A, standard tuning, and could never really pick up a sort of guiding principle for what Bracey was doing.  It wasn't until I actually transcribed the piece that I discovered that Ishmon Bracey had created a 17-bar blues, and that what he did behind his sung verses was perfectly consistent with regard to structure, though so novel in the way it was put together that the structure is not immediately apparent.  The song is phrased like so, with all measures of four beats apiece.

   |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |

   |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |

   |    V    |    V    |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |    I    |

A couple of interesting features of the song's phrasing:
   * The song's phrasing irregularities are not driven by the vocal.  The vocal phrases over the first two bars of each of the three phrases as per usual in a non-chorus blues with an AAB lyric scheme.
   * The source of the song's unique phrasing is Ishmon Bracey's way of playing the instrumental response that follows each vocal phrase.  He has a one-bar signature lick that he uses to book-end a changeable interior bar in the three bars that follow each vocal phrase.  To complicate matters further, in the tagline he follows the vocal with a two-bar instrumental lick and then adds on the three-bar instrumental tag in the same way that he employed it at the end of the first two phrases.
What you end up with, then, is a form in which the bars end up being designated like so: (Note:  All bars are the same length despite the appearance of different lengths.)

   |  vocal  |  vocal  | signature lick  | changing lick  |  signature lick  |

   |  vocal  |  vocal  | signature lick  | changing lick  |  signature lick  |

   |vocal|vocal|ending lick|ending lick, cont'd.|signature lick|changing lick|signature lick|

This is a potent combination:  a unique and fascinating structure that has the capacity for change built into it, Bracey's astringent,puckery tuning and capacity for always seeming to bend even notes he's hitting dead on by just a hair, capped off by the most distinctive vocal head tone in blues singing this side of Rube Lacy.  One of a kind and great, indeed!
All best,
Johnm      
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 09:31:33 AM by Johnm »

Offline hortig78rpm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #40 on: May 10, 2010, 04:20:56 AM »
hello folks

this is a discussion without any end. Ive worked for years with afro-americanism professor alfons dauer here at the univrsity, looking out for different blues-forms etc. at that time I had all the document LP`s and later cd`s at hand, and we found hundred one of a kind tunes. structure: 4,6,8,9,1o,11,12,13,14,16,2o,24 bars, text: one line , two lines, three lines, two with answer-line , one story without any repeat,  minor, minor mixed, only played on the I. only I and IV
changes in the second or 1o chorus. here exampled of the most strangest tunes:
andy boy: house raid blues., big joh  henry miller : down by myself. sylvester palmer:lonesome man blues, lighning hopkins: Mr. charly blues, turner frodrell: slow drag, walter roland: big mama, joe pullum: black girl/rack it back and tell it right, lee green: the way I feel, leroy carr: baby, dont you love me no more,
tommy bradley: adam & eve and many more

regards
mike

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #41 on: May 10, 2010, 08:33:19 AM »
Hi hortig78rpm,
You'll get no argument from me that there is a virtually endless supply of one-off blues forms.  I think the notion of the thread is that the impact of such tunes/performances is most strongly experienced one at a time, rather than as an inundation of idiosyncrasies.  Adding to listed categories en masse shortcuts appreciation of individuality and presents the unique characteristics of these performances as an undifferentiated undigestible mass.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #42 on: May 11, 2010, 01:28:59 AM »
I've had occasion recently to study and work out Ishmon Bracey's "Four Day Blues", and I believe it most certainly qualifies for this thread.

Looks bizarre on paper, but sounds very logical, as you say. I think Bracey should get extra points for unusualness with "Worried now, shan't be worried long." Not sure I've ever heard anyone sing that lyric with "shan't".
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #43 on: May 11, 2010, 09:15:44 AM »
I know what you mean, Chris, you don't run into "shan't" in blues lyrics that often.  I can see it now, from Ishmon Bracey's forthcoming biography:  "And oft betimes would Bracey troll a tribute to his lissome faro." 
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: One of a Kind--and Great
« Reply #44 on: May 11, 2010, 02:16:48 PM »
"And oft betimes would Bracey troll a tribute to his lissome faro." 

 :D

 


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