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Is it cool in here, or is it just me? - Big Dave MacLean, in concert with loud shirt and stylish contrasting multihued beret

Author Topic: Delta Blues #1  (Read 1483 times)

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Offline markm

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    • Mark McDonald Blues
Delta Blues #1
« on: November 06, 2006, 02:31:17 PM »
I recorded this yesterday and want to put up a version on the sites that I subscribe to, Soundclick, Broadjam, personal website, etc. but first I want to hear your all's very educated and respected opinion.

 When I first started listening to it I thought it was acceptable but now I cringe when I hear it.  I think the singing is lacking honesty (it didn't seem that way when I recorded it but it sures sounds that way to me) and whatever else.  It is a few tracks so it will not compress very well so here is a link http://www.markmcdonaldblues.com/delta.htm

For you PTers I performed this one on Thursday this year but this recorded version is on my 1937 Kalamazoo KG-14. The singing and playing is live, the harp and knee slaps are dubbed.

So any feedback would be appreciated.  I have no problem re recording it as I think I should but I just want to hear what you all think.  Be honest and don't worry I am not thin skinned.

Mark

Offline Dr. G

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2006, 06:33:33 AM »
Hi Mark

Hugely enjoyed your playing. Your harp player is as tasteful as they get. And you have terrific vocal control (and the ability to crack a falsetto) -- of a sort that I can only envy.

You do raise a topic that I find utterly fascinating (and that totally set my head a-swirl this morning) in your post references to your vocal interpretation here, and to your own reaction(s) to it -- (it being understood, I think, that any given performance, or setting for a song, can have an infinitude of "vocal interpretations", or moods, even by the same artist).

I have so many responses to your very compelling explicit (and implicit) questions that:

(1) I would truly like to do justice to them (as well as to my own myriad responses), and hence a much longer post than I have time for before rushing off to work this morning would be in the cards;

(2) I cringe at the thought of my beginning to be perceived by other Weenies as "that pedantic and obnoxiously verbose shrink a**hole on these forums", who seems to have an opinion on just about anything and everything. [I only recently discovered Weenie Campbell, and confess that I am probably making up for years of having practically no one to talk with about these things];

and

(3) I think that the topic of vocal attack (especially by us "moderns") is so huge -- and cannot be done justice without considering fundamental questions about the very meaning of "art" -- that it probably deserves its own thread...which I would be happy to start, if given only the slightest encouragement. (With only the slightest encouragement "in the other direction", I could just as easlily remain silent, and let someone else kick this discussion off, if indeed it is a topic that needs to be [re-]considered....)

Best,

Dr. G 

Offline Stuart

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2006, 07:21:15 AM »
(2) I cringe at the thought of my beginning to be perceived by other Weenies as "that pedantic and obnoxiously verbose shrink a**hole on these forums", who seems to have an opinion on just about anything and everything. [I only recently discovered Weenie Campbell, and confess that I am probably making up for years of having practically no one to talk with about these things];

We'll be the judges of that, Doc. The fact that you are concerned about this is an indication, to me at least, that you are effectively monitoring your own posts.

IMHO the art of the performance of music is a legit topic. There's at least one other person here who I think would agree. The moderators will reign you in if things ever get a little too wild and crazy.

Offline Slack

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2006, 07:26:31 AM »
re: #2. Dr G,  - the reason an email list, then a website was started is that a number of us had practically no one to talk to about these things -- that's what the site is for, so please feel free to 'catch up'.

Markm, I've listened several times (...and I didn't cringe once!), and will give you a few opinions before I go to work, unlike Dr G, I have no problem being brief.  :P   It's good to be critical of oneself, but don't be too critical, otherwise our fragile male egos have a tough time making more progress.  Whoops, I'm venturing into Dr G's territory...  

In any case and for a little perspective, I find Delta singing one of the more difficult styles to sing - so personally, I try to avoid the style!  :D  So I admire you for tackling the style.  

I think why you may be feel that your singing is less than honest is that you are still trying to find the illusive, your voice.  I think my biggest criticism is that for emotional impact you start singing with a southern accent.  I've talked with you at PT (on the blues bus) and you don't speak with a southern accent, so why sing with one? The guttural techniques are part of this too.  I'd much rather hear you sing in your voice -- viva la difference and all that. I think you could more effectively convey emotion by concentrating more on phrasing and pitch.  You obviously have a good ear, the slide work is very nice and your intonation is excellent.  Delta singing is micro-tonal, much like slide (or is it vice versa) - so I'd apply the same discipline to your voice as you do your hand.  It is always an eye-opener to me to slow down a song and listen to what these guys do with their voices - Wow, just amazing and it is hard to hear at full speed.

You've got a nice rich, resonant voice that is great for Delta singing(count yourself lucky!) and a good use of dynamics, but my vote would be for dropping the accent and concentrate on phrasing (and your already good use of dynamics) to convey emotion.  One modern guy that I think has really mastered this style in his own voice is Paul Rishell.  If you are unfamiliar with Paul's Bye Bye Blues -- give it a listen sometime.

Cheers,


P.S. Dr. G, the Art of perfomance is A-Ok -- in fact, we probably have some related topics around here somewhere - so you might search first.

Offline markm

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    • Mark McDonald Blues
Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2006, 10:23:21 AM »
Thank you Slack for your insightful comments.  I agree wholeheartedly. 

About the Southern accent:  I was born and reared (only occasionally thankfully) in Kansas but after 30 years in California I think I have lost my "hick accent"  It only rears it's ugly head on two occasions, singing and in aviation.  I was a professional pilot for many years and for some reason every time I picked up that mike I would fall into that drawl.

The singing thing is hard to overcome.  I grew up listening to Blues, Country Music, and Southern Rock almost exclusively.  I often say my Delta interpretations is where Clarksdale meets Wichita. I think that is why I cringe when I hear some songs that I do.  The accent doesn't sound Southern to me it sounds freakin Kansas.

The other point you made, the growls.  I hate that when I hear it.  You are absolutely right.  I listen to so much Delta Blues that it just seems automatic when I am performing the songs but when you listen to it being played back it sounds so "put on" and not natural.

What scares me is how I sound in public.  I perform probably twice a week in one place or another.  Are other people saying, Geez he sounds so fake? 

You are so right about pitch and phrasing.  I will go back to the drawing board and try this one again.  I also think I will use a thumbpick instead of bare fingers to give a crisper bass line and add some guitar volume since I record the playing and singing live.

Like Dr. G says, the only thing I am really satisfied with on this attempt is the Harp work.  That is the one thing that falls out so naturally to me. 

Thank's Slack.  Maybe in a few days I will have another version up and we'll see if it is any better, more honest and palatable.

Mark
(Where Clarksdale meets Wichita)

Offline Slack

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2006, 10:39:33 AM »
Quote
What scares me is how I sound in public.  I perform probably twice a week in one place or another.  Are other people saying, Geez he sounds so fake?

Well, just remember that singing in public is a whole lot more than most people can muster. You can declare victory right there.  There will always be folks that like what you are doing and others that don't.  So, I think your guage should be yourself, not what other people say or think.  Compete with yourself, one up yourself, satisfy yourself - others be damned.  :)  If you find areas in your performance that need improvement (and you always will), and work on them, then you will improve. 

Offline dj

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2006, 11:04:46 AM »
Quote
Are other people saying, Geez he sounds so fake? 

Nope, they're mostly saying "Gee, he's got a pretty good voice".  That was my reaction.

I think you're pretty much in line with most of us here - you've got a good voice, you do basically good things with it, and if you spent as much time working on vocal phrasing and intonation as you do on instrumental phrasing and intonation, you'd be really good at it.  Please note that this isn't a put-down, nor sarcastic in any way.  It's something I'm trying to work on myself.  I find it's (relatively) easy and satisfying to play something on the guitar and much harder and less immediately satisfying to work on the vocal, line by line and verse by verse, to get it sounding really good.   

And there's nothing wrong with singing the blues with a Kansas accent!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Delta Blues #1
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2006, 03:37:36 PM »
Hey Mark,

You know it's really not that bad if you ask me. But you are trying to support what I would call a very high form, with a tremendous amount of onamentation. Going from gravel on up to falsetto and back in one line, lots of interjections, etc. That is very difficult to support emotionally, and I think this is what you are hearing when you listen to it. You have almost as much ornamentation in the guitar backing as you do in the vocal, but you seem to be more emotionally invested there and it doesn't come off feeling as disconnected.

There is nothing wrong with ornamentation in vocal delivery, it is what makes each song unique, but, as I said, it needs to be emotionally supported to work. As an actor I have had to support some pretty high form in my day, and I have found that it helps to start small and plant the seeds. Then, thru much repetition and familiarization with the emotional ride, so to speak, things have a chance to grow in a more organic way. Things become easier and require less effort. I hear you making a lot of effort to realize your form. Effort is the antithesis of release, which is what you want.

I think you can work toward a more fully supported form that is very similar to what you have, but I think you need to go back to vocal basics first and work your way back up to it. Don't just try to do what you are doing with stronger emotions, that never works. In a way you need to let the emotion be in the form, not on top of the form, but that's getting a little too esoteric.

I would never say not to use gravel or falsetto in a Delta song, they're part of the style as far as I'm concerned. You just need to work into them from a feeling, so that, as I said, you can feel yourself releasing thru the form.

Well, I hope that helps. And heck, I think you own that accent. If everything else was well supported it would be fine.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

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