collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they've ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever – mirages for which people are prepared to die and kill. Christ's kingdom on earth, the workers' paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it is tantalizingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes - Ian McEwan, from his novel Saturday

Author Topic: Elijah Brown  (Read 2512 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Elijah Brown
« on: August 06, 2006, 12:31:22 PM »
The following I've extracted from a much longer piece, "A Weekend With The Blues", written by John W. Peters (aka Pete John Welding) for Jazz Journal and  published in December 1965. It's certainly atmospherically written:

Big Joe Williams, that tirelessly peripatetic bluesman, had directed me to Elijah Brown, an elderly Mississippi-born singer and guitarist whose gripping bottleneck guitar work on a poor, dimly-recorded tape made on a home recorder under Big Joe's supervision ? so poorly recorded, in fact, as to allow only the faintest glimmer of the man's work to shine through ? had nonetheless excited me greatly. What little I had heard had convinced me that Brown was possibly an important Mississippi artist. Of course, I had to find out for myself. It was fast approaching dusk as we made our way through East St. Louis' traffic-choked streets towards the old George Washington Bridge spanning the broad, sluggish river. We slipped the car past the bridge approach and turned down an old cobbled street that ran parallel to the bridge, then suddenly veered to the left under it. We made another left turn and immediately found ourselves in the midst of the deep south. Down both sides of a cul de sac were a number of small unpainted shacks and houses that might have been lifted bodily out of a small Mississippi community. Rickety wooden slat fences teetered in front of each house.
   Brown's was the second from the end on the right, as I confirmed by a letter addressed to him that protruded from the mailbox next to the front door. After ringing the doorbell repeatedly, I opened the door and walked in. The front room, which served as a parlor, was small, furnished with much-battered old furniture that looked as though it had seen decades of use. On the far wall was pinned a garish chromo reproduction of the Karsh colour photograph of John F. Kennedy and his wife, and surrounding this was a small frieze of yellowed snapshots and newspaper clippings. A metal gas heater in the centre of the room threw off both heat and fumes.
   No one answered my calls, so l made my way to the back of the house; the back door was ajar. In one room two small cats stirred sleepily on a bed.
   In the yard I found Elijah Brown, a battered brown cap perched on his head and wearing an old army battle jacket. Ho had been fixing the water pipes, he explained, and was putting his tools in the small shed that served for that purpose in a corner of the yard. He had been expecting me, he told me as we re-entered the house. Back in the parlor. I signalled Norman to start unloading the recording equipment. While we were setting up the equipment, Brown nervously ran through a number of old pieces. His voice was small and marked by a decided breathless quaver; the loss of a number of teeth had reduced it even more and robbed it of its incisiveness. But in that wistful, gentle voice was carried the rich, intense strain of the Delta blues in all its purity and emotional potency. Even more remarkable was his guitar playing ? plangent and insinuating, the rhythms simple yet lilting, not far removed from those of work songs and early country dance pieces. This was the sound of the unadulterated old Mississippi blues, the music of the time and the place of Charlie Patton, Son House and Willie Brown ? stark and unadorned, piercingly beautiful in its directness and gentle power. Finally all was ready, and Brown was perched rigidly on a kitchen chair, his face only inches away from a microphone. He had never before recorded and, naturally, was apprehensive of the outcome. He launched tentatively into his first number, Crying Won't Make Me Stay, picking up assurance and intensity as the song developed over an easy, unforced rhythm. He glanced at me from time to time in mute appeal, my smiles of pleasure seemingly encouraging him.
   Listening to the playback, he grinned. 'I can do that one better,' he said, and a second take not only had none of the rhythmic hesitancy of the first, but was spun out to twice its length; a long, sustained and cohesive performance over a supple, plaintive rhythmic underpinning. On his third and fourth numbers he played slide guitar, the instrument placed flat on his lap, with a pocketknife used to produce the whining, vocal guitar lines that under scored and echoed his singing. The pieces were Baby, Please Don't Go, sung to an alternate melody than the one to which Big Joe performs the piece, and one that seemed to antedate Williams' by quite a few years, and a delightful, vigorous John Henry.
   The numbers that followed in rapid succession that evening?Worry You off My Mind; Won't Be Troubled Long; Gonna Do It This Time (Ain't Gonna Do It No More); Have Mercy On My Wicked Soul; Windin' Ball; Lord, What Can I Do?; Treated Like A Dog, and the lovely slide instrumental Pearlie (which Son House, listening to the tape later, recalled as a popular, much-requested piece at country dances and other Delta socials) ? were a revelation. Here was a man in 1965 performing pieces and in a style as old as, or perhaps even older than he; playing and singing, in fact, as though time had stood still, which for him ? musically, at any rate ? it has.
   Elijah Brown performs now as he did when he first started to play many years ago in Macon, Mississippi, where he was born in October, 1896. When he was fourteen years old, Brown learned the instrument from his wife's older brother, Jerry Ingram, who taught the youngster to play in the prevailing Delta style. He retains it to today, unimpaired and uninfluenced by any musical developments that have taken place in the blues since then. His music is a living reflection of the Mississippi blues as they must have sounded in 1910 ? when he first came to the music?and perhaps even prior to that (thanks to the tutelage by Ingram). If the repertoire and performance style have remained unchanged, time has, of course, worked its inevitable changes. Elijah Brown no longer sings with the ringing vibrancy of youth, nor do his fingers respond as readily as they once did. But there is an undeniable power ? albeit blurred and muted by age ? and a gentle, lambent ardor to his singing and playing. They have taken on an affecting, reflective patina over the years, but the stirring intensity and the deep emotion are still there at the core. And, too, there is the further tinge of melancholy that has been quietly overlaid: in his songs of sexual joy and conquest, faithlessness, revenge, rambling, anger and violence Brown is summoning up ghosts from the past. It was a profoundly moving evening. As we broke down the equipment, Brown and his wife listened delightedly to a playback of the tapes, laughing quietly every now and then as a verse tickled them. Their 12-year-old grandson Perry seemed confused; he didn't quite know what to make of music that his grandparents and we so obviously enjoyed but which held little charm or interest for him. He began to show my wife some colourful drawings he had done.
   After paying Elijah and extracting from his wife a promise to sing some old spirituals on our next trip (she had a cold and was too hoarse to sing), we reluctantly left.

Offline Johnm

  • Global Moderator
  • Member
  • Posts: 10771
    • johnmillerguitar.com
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2006, 04:51:22 PM »
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for posting the piece on Elijah Brown.  I was wondering--did the tunes Welding describes recording in the session ever end up being released on an album devoted to Brown's music?  I think I might have one or two cuts by him on an old Testament Blues anthology, "Ramblin' On My Mind".
All best,
Johnm

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2006, 11:37:57 PM »
Here's the "session" as in Blues Records 1943-70 (1987). As you can see when Frank Scott put together those Testament CD reissues in mid-90s he only included one new title on a compilation.

V/g.            East St. Louis, Il,  12 Mar 1965

Crying won?t make me stay    Milestone LP 3002
Baby please don?t go   unissued
John Henry    Testament CD 6009
Worry you off my mind    unissued
Won?t be troubled long    Testament LP 2209
Gonna do it this time (ain?t gonna do it no more) unissued
Have mercy on my wicked soul    unissued
Windin? ball    Testament LP 2209
Lord what can I do    unissued
Treated like a dog    unissued
Pearline [inst]    Testament LP 2209

Offline Michael Cardenas

  • Member
  • Posts: 79
  • traditional Blues singer & slide guitarist
    • Myspace
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2011, 07:01:31 AM »
I do prefer Elijah's Pearline to Son House's and want to recommend this thread be tagged with Pearline.
LISTEN TO BLUES MUSIC

Offline LD50

  • Member
  • Posts: 159
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2011, 12:41:42 PM »
Is Testament's Sound of the Blues the only in-print album with recordings by Brown?

Offline Michael Cardenas

  • Member
  • Posts: 79
  • traditional Blues singer & slide guitarist
    • Myspace
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2011, 03:11:03 PM »
My guess is "The Sound Of The Delta" is the only release one could readily get their hands on now.
LISTEN TO BLUES MUSIC

Offline LD50

  • Member
  • Posts: 159
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2011, 10:52:23 AM »
Well, I just got myself a copy of 'Sound of the Delta', and I was startled to discover that Ruby McCoy's astonishing 'Black Mary' is a cover of a Bessie Tucker record. (Welding mentions this in the liner notes.)

I haven't listened to the whole CD yet, but so far that's my favorite track on it.

Offline jpeters609

  • Member
  • Posts: 232
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2011, 11:12:24 AM »
Well, I just got myself a copy of 'Sound of the Delta', and I was startled to discover that Ruby McCoy's astonishing 'Black Mary' is a cover of a Bessie Tucker record. (Welding mentions this in the liner notes.)

I haven't listened to the whole CD yet, but so far that's my favorite track on it.

George, Ethel, and Ruby McCoy were very fine Mississippi musicians recorded in St. Louis. They also made a long-out-of-print lp on the Adelphi label which is worth tracking down. George and Ethel were brother and sister, and I believe Ruby may have been George's wife. Never verified as far as I know, but Ethel claimed that Memphis Minnie was their aunt (also rumored that Big Joe Williams may have been a relation). At any rate, great Delta-style country blues. Here's a quote from the Adelphi website (which hasn't been updated in many years):

George & Ethel McCoy

Among the more delightful discoveries made along the blues trek were George and Ethel McCoy, a brother and sister guitar duo who lived in St. Louis. The Adelphi crew were enchanted with the pair's music style, the result of a lifetime of playing together, but it was not until Ethel performed "Meningitis Blues" that the dots were connected. Mike Stewart asked if Ethel had learned the song from one of Memphis Minnie's 78 records and was stunned by Ethel's reply: "No. She taught us the song. She was our Auntie."
Jeff

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2011, 12:04:31 PM »
Well, I just got myself a copy of 'Sound of the Delta', and I was startled to discover that Ruby McCoy's astonishing 'Black Mary' is a cover of a Bessie Tucker record. (Welding mentions this in the liner notes.)
Recorded by Tucker as Old Black Mary.

The LP version contains a second song of hers Rising Sun Shine On, which I assume is on the CD, an alternative "take" of which (as Rising Sun Blues) appears on a 1967 Storyville LP (Blues Scene USA Vol.4:Mississippi Blues, SLP 180). The following songs from that 10 October 1964 session appear to be unreleased:

Lonesome Blues
Chauffeur Blues
Bumble Bee Blues

Offline LD50

  • Member
  • Posts: 159
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2011, 12:07:04 PM »
Well, I just got myself a copy of 'Sound of the Delta', and I was startled to discover that Ruby McCoy's astonishing 'Black Mary' is a cover of a Bessie Tucker record. (Welding mentions this in the liner notes.)

I haven't listened to the whole CD yet, but so far that's my favorite track on it.

George, Ethel, and Ruby McCoy were very fine Mississippi musicians recorded in St. Louis. They also made a long-out-of-print lp on the Adelphi label which is worth tracking down. George and Ethel were brother and sister, and I believe Ruby may have been George's wife. Never verified as far as I know, but Ethel claimed that Memphis Minnie was their aunt (also rumored that Big Joe Williams may have been a relation). At any rate, great Delta-style country blues. Here's a quote from the Adelphi website (which hasn't been updated in many years):

George & Ethel McCoy

Among the more delightful discoveries made along the blues trek were George and Ethel McCoy, a brother and sister guitar duo who lived in St. Louis. The Adelphi crew were enchanted with the pair's music style, the result of a lifetime of playing together, but it was not until Ethel performed "Meningitis Blues" that the dots were connected. Mike Stewart asked if Ethel had learned the song from one of Memphis Minnie's 78 records and was stunned by Ethel's reply: "No. She taught us the song. She was our Auntie."


Their auntie via Joe McCoy??

Offline LD50

  • Member
  • Posts: 159
Re: Elijah Brown
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2011, 12:12:23 PM »
Well, I just got myself a copy of 'Sound of the Delta', and I was startled to discover that Ruby McCoy's astonishing 'Black Mary' is a cover of a Bessie Tucker record. (Welding mentions this in the liner notes.)
Recorded by Tucker as Old Black Mary.

The LP version contains a second song of hers Rising Sun Shine On, which I assume is on the CD, an alternative "take" of which (as Rising Sun Blues) appears on a 1967 Storyville LP (Blues Scene USA Vol.4:Mississippi Blues, SLP 180). The following songs from that 10 October 1964 session appear to be unreleased:

Lonesome Blues
Chauffeur Blues
Bumble Bee Blues


Yes, Rising Sun Shine On *is* on the CD, tho I personally don't think it's anywhere near as good as Black Mary. What startled me about the latter song is that McCoy is actually trying really hard to SING like Tucker did, and she sounds just like her. Tucker's always been one of my favorite female blues singers of all time but I always thought she was too obscure to influence anyone.

(Kind of reminds me of Willie B. Huff modeling her singing on Lightnin' Hopkins.)

A shame the other three songs have never been released. I wonder who even owns the master tapes now?

 


SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal