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I hate to see the rising sun go down - Furry Lewis, St. Louis Blues

Author Topic: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings  (Read 2128 times)

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Offline Dr. G

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Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« on: October 28, 2006, 06:32:28 AM »
Hi all,

In recent threads there has been some lively discussion of different tunings and settings for a given song.

I spoke of re-casting e.g., "Church Bell Blues" (wonderfully recorded in days of yore [in standard] by Luke Jordan and John Miller) in a different tuning so that you didn't have to have a voice like the Vienna Choir boys to pull it off...at least without capoing the guitar into the stratosphere, or tuning it down to 16 RPM.

By way of illustration of the vastly different colorations different tunings, keys, and instrumentation can impart to the same classic number, I am posting 3 different assaults on the aforementioned "Church Bell Blues" -- one of my all-time favorites -- in 3 different settings.

The first is an ensemble approach by my group "Dr. G's Good Medicine" we recorded on our album "Who's Been Here?". I had to tune my guitar (in standard) down a whole step in order to play the requisite key of E shapes and still be able to reach the high notes with my inflexible voice. (That would be my brother, [Dr.] Andy G on harp, my cousin [Dr.] Matt H on bass and backup vocal, Matt's brother Sam H on piano, and friends Steve M on mandolin and Nancy T on washboard.) ...Sounds better in stereo, obviously....

The second is a live duet I recorded with my son, [Dr.] Duncan G, in which I didn't mind capoing my standard-tuned guitar to mandolinish heights because Dunc anchored the lower end with un-capoed guitar chops (also in standard)...he's the back up vocalist on this one. (As I give this one a re-listen, I realize that it is played on a  quite sprightly tempo.)

The third is a solo job (plus hand claps) that I play out of Spanish (capoed 2 frets) -- a tuning that I finally resorted to after years of frustration of never seeming to be able to get a proper balance of guitar and voice on this number. The cute thing about playing this one (and many others -- see, e.g., thread on "Baby I Want You to Know") in Spanish is that Spanish gives you the opportunity -- frequently, anyway -- to be able to play the tune in either of two octaves within the same performance...nice for variety, and to keep your left hand from getting too lazy. Also, your voice often sounds better against one octave, while the other octave can be used for the guitar "solo".

Hope you enjoy the comparos!

Dr. G

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2006, 06:34:19 AM »
Here's the version in Spanish.

Offline Slack

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2006, 08:58:53 AM »
Wow Dr G. - terrific versions all three.  A real family affair you have going there... I just hope ALL those "Dr.'s" aren't shrinks!  ;)  ...seriously it is just great that you all share a love of this music, how did that happen?

Anyway, really love the piano playing in the ensemble version - the song works very well as an ensemble piece (or you all make it work well).  But my favorite is the Spanish.  The lower octave gives it a kind of 'mean and nasty' flavor which goes well with the lyrics.... and it does seem to suit your vocal range the best -- really a terrific version.

Dunno if you've come across it in the lyrics board - but we had a pretty long thread, starting when weeniecampbell was an email list, on deciphering the lyrics to Church Bell Blues.  I notice you've taken some liberties with the lyrics, so you might be interested in seeing what the group came up with.  You might find it amusing.

Thanks for posting... really enjoyed that! 

Offline Johnm

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2006, 10:05:51 AM »
That really is great to hear the different versions, Dr. G, and it kind of goes along with Bill Evans' observation that you learn more from playing one piece for 24 hours than from playing 24 pieces each for one hour.  I agree with Slack that the version in Spanish has a really special sound, and a lot of the places you are going there I have not heard people go to in Spanish before.  Good work!
All best,
Johnm

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2006, 03:46:11 PM »
Slack and Johnm

I am enormously appreciative of both of your kind words and insights about these arrangements.

Slack, I must confess that those other Drs. G are indeed shrinks, too....I call it "the family gift and the the family curse". Cousin Matt is a PhD-type doctor -- every family needs a black sheep! My son, Duncan (Young Dr. G), also  performs with his sister, Isabel (Younger Dr. G) -- also a shrink -- and with my younger brother, Chris (the family percussionist), who is a psychologist. They call their group "Shrink Rap".

We all learned to love the old music sitting around the campfire in Maine singing "folk songs" and the occasional blues or spiritual while Uncle Fred (now in his mid-eighties and still playing guitar and singing!) strummed his old Martin singing Woodie Guthrie, Weavers, Leadbelly, and Josh White songs...then along came the Kingston Trio and the "folk revival", and school was out.....

Can't wait to check out that thread on the Church Bell lyrics....I think the "folk process" has rendered some pretty creative (far-fetched?) imagery in my versions!

Johnm, to be able to not only play for one of my guitar heroes of the past 30+ years, but to be able to play something he hadn't heard -- or thought of -- before is one of life's great moments for me.

I work hard in my open-tuning work not to have the guitar sound like it's necessarily in an open tuning. Few arrangements are more boring to me than the ones where you immediately say, "Oh, there's open G -- because it sounds obvious -- and like everything else in open G"...or "Oh, and that's in open D -- because it sounds obvious and like everything else in open D...."

Obviously, one way to keep those super strong Spanish and Vastapol resonances and overtones from giving it all away is to play fewer full chords and to do a whole lot of string damping -- with both the left and right hand.

And here's a situation where I think a capo really helps: not so much because you can pretend you're playing in A or B-flat or C (when you're really just playing capoed Spanish), but rather because a capo can be such an "overtones killer". (Ruins a banjo's sound, in my book, but helps reduce the signal-to-harmonic noise ratio on a guitar -- making the setting less obvious.)

I recently re-set "Long Tall Mama" to Spanish from standard because all that left hand fingering was cramping my hand something ferocious...got it remarkably close to the original (actually, better in some ways), and MUCH easier and more fun to play. But I typically slap a capo on at least the first fret if for no other reason than to dampen all those "I'm in Spanish!" giveaway overtones.

Great to hear from you both

Dr. G

Offline Richard

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2006, 10:31:53 AM »
Well done DrG... I am torn between the Spanish and ensemble. it's the piano that does it together with the understated washboard that does not get in the way!

I think maybe an ensemble version played in Spanish would do the trick!
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2006, 01:07:01 PM »
Thanks, Richard

I do indeed intend to record it eventually in Spanish with my crew...it comes out so different every time, it might as well be a different song entirely....Besides, my piano man moved away, and I'm eager to see what my new piano (wo)man -- she's a doc, too, although of the PhD persuasion -- will do with it.

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2006, 07:46:02 PM »
Hey Slack --

Tried my darndest to search out the thread on the Church Bell Blues lyrics you reference earlier...without any luck. Any hints for me?

Thanks.

Offline Doug

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2006, 10:50:26 PM »
Hi Dr. G,

Check out:

http://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/index.php?amp;Itemid=100&topic=110.0

(The search function at the top of the main page worked for me this time...  Sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn't.)

Let me add my appreciation for the three alternate "Church Bell" arrangements.  Very different sounds, all nice playing (and singing!).  I think Spanish is my favorite, although they're all enjoyable.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2006, 10:54:12 PM by Doug »

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2006, 04:29:03 AM »
Thanks, Doug

You made my morning. Thanks for your appreciation of the CBB arrangements. What a fabulous thread on the CBB lyrics you sent me to! ('Course now I feel like a complete bonehead for singing such bollixed up lyrics -- not once, but thrice!) Someone really oughta publish all this research (and repartee) some day!

Slack, you're off the hook...

Offline Slack

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2006, 07:04:23 AM »
Thanks Doug -- glad we found it.

The search box at the top of the page is board specific - so to search the whole site, make sure you are at the forum index.  And now that i tink about it -- there was some minor update to the software to correct the search -- so I'll make sure that is installed.

Dr. G - purpose was not to make you feel like a bonehead (is that a medical term?) - bollixing lyrics is part of the folk process after all.  Just thought you'd get a kick out of all of our deciphering process.  My thinking the line "bought you good hair" was "bought you good ham" -- now that's bonehead.   ;D

Offline Rivers

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Re: Church Bell Blues -- 3 Different Settings
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2006, 04:48:10 PM »
I've been running across references to wigs & bald heads etc lately. At least one from Lightnin' Hopkins and others more obscure as well. This must have been a hugely funny joke back in the day. A really suitably nerdy weenie project would be to assemble the definitive list of these and any background on why it was so side splittingly funny  ???

I'm starting another thread immediately that folks can add to as we stumble aross them.

Tags: Luke Jordan 
 


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