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Author Topic: In Who's Voice?  (Read 2682 times)

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Offline Dr. G

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In Who's Voice?
« on: November 08, 2006, 06:03:57 AM »
Markm stimulated (or revived) a fascinating discussion of vocal performance in his Back Porch thread Delta Blues #1.

How a child of the 2nd half of the 20th century, or of the 21st, should sing the blues, is a daunting question with artistic, philosophical, even existential, overtones. Yet it seems an extremely important one to consider, and to come to some kind of terms with -- because vocal performance is such a huge part of the overall presentation of a number (whether on listening-only media or live).

One might be inclined to dismiss such a discussion with the perspective, "Well, it's just a matter of taste...either you like it or you don't." But WHY our "tastes" run certain ways, and WHY we "like" some things and not others, is -- at least to us shrinks -- a very intriguing topic. I thought I'd have a go at it for anyone interested.

First a psychiatry joke. Obsessive-compulsive guy overheard at the museum: "I know art but I don't know what I like!"

A few thoughts on "In Who's Voice?"....

1. Finding one's own voice.   There is a natural inclination in any aspiring artist to begin by respectful imitation of the style(s) of the master(s). This is why at any great museum in Europe you're likely to encounter art students carefully "recreating" Reubenses, Rembrandts, and Michelangelos on their own canvases. (In fact many of the "masters" started their careers by perpetuating the styles of THEIR masters, as part of their masters' own cottage industries.) When the former apprentice, or understudy, comes into his own is when he "finds his own voice".

2. Intimacy of the CB's.  One of the most appealing attributes of the CB is that they are so intimate: they open private doors to the listener into the experience, mind and heart of the performer. It strikes me that performance styles that invite a closer connection to the performer tend to be more successful than those that strengthen the barriers between them. Transparency, openness, and directness tend to open doors between people. Affectations and contrivances of various sorts tend to strengthen barriers, because they emphasize the dissimilarities between people, and interfere with direct communication.

3. Barriers between Performer and Listener.    A rock band all decked out with makeup, outlandish attire, and idiosyncratic behavior and posturing can provide exhilarating entertainment. I personally enjoy some of this stuff. But it tends not to present a CB-type intimate connection between artist and listener, and in fact probably thrives on its being so different from the audience's conscious experience (though it doubtless resonates with certain currents in the audience's unconscious experience).

4. "Too cool for my hat?"     I find one of the attractions of the old CB's to be that they (at least from a modern perspective) seem to be so unself-conscious. I feel (rightly or wrongly) as if many of the the artists seem barely aware of having "an audience" at all. My experience is akin to that of W.C. Handy's legendary "discovery" of the CB's: stumbling across a lone musician at a train station playing slide guitar and singing softly to himself about the Yellow Dog...perhaps being more a voyeur than a paying customer.

Granted, to some degree this represents a hopelessly quaint, sentimental, even revisionist, viewpoint: clearly many of the CB greats were skillful audience-manipulators, and probably quite self-conscious in some ways. Nonetheless, the performances that I find appealing tend to be the ones in which the performer-audience distinction is minimized.

For these same reasons (I think) I tend to find many "Soul Music" performances not particularly appealing: many soul artists strike me as "too cool for their hat"...i.e., come across as quite self-consciously aware that they are "on stage", that they are "putting on a performance" (as opposed to being "overheard" speaking in their own, natural voices) ... and that everyone "on stage" is much cooler than everyone in the audience. I feel that this puts up barriers.

I have the same reaction to the proverbial "lounge lizard", and to many other highly-polished performers -- who somehow, for all their technical skill, do not seem invested in connecting with the audience...at least where I personally want to be connected with.

5. Androgyny?    An extension of the above reflection is the interesting issue of "androgyny" in music, i.e., the relative absense of overpowering "testosterone" in the vocal performances of many hugely successful artists...Michael Jackson comes to mind...but so do Blind Owl Wilson (of Canned Heat fame), Dickie Betts (of Allman Brothers fame), Michael MacDonald (of Doobie Brothers fame), and anybody else who sings high tenor or cracks a falsetto.

Vocal performers who do not overwhelm the listener with "the testosterone thing" are often more beloved than those whose performances tend to be rough, gruff, and kind of (hairy) chest-beating in style. I readily admit that I myself am much more drawn to performances that come across as gentle, reflective, un-threatening, and non-alpha male than I am to the other sort.

I much prefer Charley Patton's and Willie Johnson's "straight" singing to their false bass stylings.

Not surprisingly, Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" is my all-time favorite. I love Cryin' Sam Collins' voice. I love Luke Jordan's. I love Sleepy John Estes'. Even though some of my other favorite singers -- Tommie Johnson, Son House, Bukka White -- have much darker voices, there is something about their vocal renditions (perhaps a more contemplative than aggressive quality?) that reassures me at some level that they aren't trying to "steal my girl".

Hmmm. Those are some my current notions. I would be fascinated to hear what other Weenies think about all of this, as well as what their own (unrelated) viewpoints and tastes may be....

Dr. G




Offline Johnm

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2006, 11:53:15 AM »
Hi all,
I agree with both Dr. G and Sarah Jane with regard to what I find compelling as a listener/fan of Country Blues:  the sense that with regard to the person making the music, "what you see is what you get".  It's one reason why I find performances like Mance Lipscomb's concert footage, available on Vestapol Videos, and Robert Belfour's solo set, 2 hours and 45 minutes (!), at Port Townsend last summer so compelling.  There's no sense of someone trying to "sell" the song.  It's just musicians playing and singing music, trusting the lyrics to make their impact felt, and taking care of business.  I love it! 
I also agree you sing with what you've been given.  This isn't to say you don't work with it and try to build a style, but in as much as the place you were born gave you an accent, by all means, employ it in your singing.  I have to constantly remember to sing louder and move more air and to make a habit of singing when playing, and not just play.  It's a lot to work on, that's for sure.
All best,
Johnm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2006, 12:45:36 PM »
I'm not sure I buy arguments for natural or real voices in terms of singing. I think there is frequent affectation, with some singers much more than others (Charley Patton, where there is a lot, compared to John Hurt where there is little, for instance). There are many affectations or techniques of altering one's voice to point to among early blues singers: Patton's mouthful of marbles, Tommy Johnson's odd warbling and falsetto leaps, Robert Wilkins' nasal head tone, Ishmon Bracey's vibrato. I think many singers slur words, exaggerate pronunciations, use street language and all sorts of things as part of an endless bag of tricks that makes their singing voice rather different from their speaking voice. There are others who sing more in their "own voice" but I don't think this makes them more real.

There are some techniques that have become contemporary blues clich?s, however, and therefore should probably be used judiciously. Too broad a southern accent can be one. Although, I think most non-southern people singing old blues adopt an accent or mannerisms not found in their speaking voices to some degree or another. While I haven't heard it done, I think I would probably react negatively to, say, Catfish Blues sung with a strong Newfoundland brogue. Does that mean Newfoundlanders shouldn't play blues ever? I hope not (though they obviously have a strong folk music idiom themselves that they can pursue as a more 'natural' choice of traditional music).

I think Paul Rishell -- to use an example Slack cited in another thread -- has varying levels of affectation in his (amazing) singing. I think Alvin Youngblood Hart will lay on the downhome accent a bit thicker in one song, a bit less in another, depending on where it works for a particular song (and it always does), depending on where the spirit carries him. He speaks differently than a fair amount of his singing. Corey Harris is from Colorado, has a graduate degree and can carry on conversations in passable French but will also give good portions of his material that "downhome" edge.

At a more basic level, I don't drop my 'g's generally when speaking but certainly do when singing (or singin'). Most of us would sing "I'm crazy 'bout them greasy greens" before we would sing "I'm crazy about those greasy greens".

Dr. G mentions Blind Willie Johnson. One of my favorite BWJ performances (and I really think it is a performance) is Let Your Light Shine On Me. It begins with lightly strummed chords and Willie singing in his natural voice for the first chorus. In the first verse, the guitar accompaniment begins its great rhythmic, running bass lines, and Willie is still singing in his natural voice, though with a bit more bite. Then we get another natural voice chorus. The energy has been building subtly through this, and for the next verse, Willie suddenly switches to his false bass and starts thumping heavily on the downbeat (either on his guitar or with his foot). It's a spine-tingling moment for me every time, coming halfway through the damn song. He sings the rest of the song in the false bass, until the very end, where he suddenly stops and sings that last "Shi-ine on me..." in his natural voice. The whole thing's enough to give a guy religion... ;)  But it still seems to me a calculated act, however divinely inspired and executed it may be.


I think this is a complicated question with different answers for different singers.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2006, 12:57:40 PM by uncle bud »

Offline Johnm

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2006, 03:50:01 PM »
Uncle Bud,
Your very thoughtful post made me re-think my earlier one as well.  It is more than a bit simplistic (as well as not particularly helpful) to simply say "Sing in your own voice."  We all have multitudes of voices in us, at least potentially.  Deciding which voice is going to be THE voice (or whether it will be just one) is really a choice, and the beginning of putting together a personal style.  Perhaps for people growing up in an environment where there is lots of singing in church or elsewhere, the issue of "finding a voice" may seem mystifying, but for me and many of my contemporaries who play this music it has been problematic at times.  As for "affectations", I realize after your Patton and Willie Johnson examples that when I like what someone does, I think of it as natural and unaffected--if I don't like it, I am apt to call it "affected" or "devicey".  In either case, though, there is at least some degree of affectation involved, I would think. 
All best,
Johnm   

Offline lindy

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2006, 08:57:37 PM »

For the past couple of weeks I've been going through my Robert Belfour class recordings. It took me several listening sessions and a lot of false starts to find the precise tuning that he used when teaching a couple of my favorite Belfour tunes. In at least two places on my recordings, Robert somehow changed his tuning while I wasn't paying attention--not from "Spanish cross-tuning" to "natural" or vice-versa, but from natural tuning at one pitch to natural tuning at another. He also changed his tuning in the same manner on different days, and if I understand rightly what he said in his North Mississippi accent, he made those changes to match how his voice felt at the moment. And what a voice!

So the lightbulb went on over my head when I realized just how comfortable I felt singing with my guitar tuned so low. Not just his songs, but a lot of other songs I've been working on for years. I now realize that ever since I started playing guitar I've been going on the assumption that I really should play everything at standard pitch, perhaps throwing on a capo once in a while if I feel myself straining to sing something. I now realize what a self-made prison that is. Ninety percent of the time I'm just playing by myself around the kitchen table at night, and the other 10% I'm playing a song or two for friends who couldn't care less what tuning I'm in. And when I try to sing some of those same songs with a guitar tuned at standard pitch, I often end up sounding like Alfalfa in the Little Rascals movies.

I'm going to start tuning down my guitar for lots of other songs that I've been playing for the past ten years but haven't felt really comfortable singing. I don't think I'll stay in as low a tuning as Robert Belfour, but I'm not going to be reluctant any longer about finding that tuning where my voice sounds natural without the benefit of a capo. I think it will help stop me from trying to sound like someone I ain't.

Lindy

Offline waxwing

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2006, 09:28:45 PM »
Well, I'm sure it's no surprise to most that I'm gonna come down on the side of more vocal variation, within the genre and within a currently performing artist's set list. I think the various "voices" created by different pre-war artists are what give depth and interest to a great deal of the different styles of blues. As I said over on Mark M's thread, I think gravel and falsetto are part of the Delta vocal style. Certainly not all used them, but many did, and many, like Wolf, carried the tradition to Chicago.

I think that it is important to remember, at least for some of us, that the music we are emulating was created before live amplification and these singers developed styles which created far more volume than modern singers need. To do this they incorporated more of the vocal resonators, existent in the human body, into their "singing voice" than we customarilly use in our "speaking voice". Perhaps they did this intuitively out of neccesity, or perhaps there were cultural antecedents, which I think is likely.

Fortunately for me, in my acting training I worked extensively to become aware of and to use these various resonators, which basically correspond to large bones or bone structures in the body. Examples would be the chest cavity, the sinus cavities behind the nose and eyes (think Ishmon Bracey, perhaps), and the top of the cranium (where you go to get a good falsetto). We studied this type of sound production both because we were training to act on large stages unamplified and also to give us a broader range of expression from which to create character (A Reichian notion, eh, Dr. G: you are where your voice comes from?) And certainly character is a great deal of what is derived from the various singing styles used by the pre-war singers.

I think to give in to the ease of the mic and use only the throat, palate and maybe a little of the nasal resonators, which is all I hear being used in what is usually referred to as "your own voice", is to lose quite a bit of what makes country blues what it is, to me. Might as well plug in a Strat and have at it.-G-

I guess I have to admit I'm also a bit of a post-modernist in that, I don't really think there's all that much room to create an entirely unique vocal style. You're always gonna sound like somebody. Personally I am more interested in hearing an artist that has more of a stylistic range. I think we'd all say that about a player's guitar styles, and I think it's the same with vocal styles.

I applaude players like Mark M who are trying to extend the range of their vocal style. It takes courage, especially for a lot of us who have neglected working on our voices for many of the years we worked on our guitar.

The bottom line is that it takes practice to sing in these various styles, to develop one's vocal resonators to the point where you can use them somewhat unconsciously, and they become an artistic extension of performance. Rather than think of a gravelly voice as a barrier which, if unsupported by personal commitment, it could be, I think of it as yet one more pallette with which to color the honest connection with the audience in the moment. You don't just "do" gravel, you "play" gravel, just like another instrument. And just like any other vocal styling. Tommy Johnson doesn't just do falsetto, he plays falsetto.

Perhaps an even bottomer line, tho', is that one should perform in the style in which one feels most comfortable. More importantly, one should perform. If one has any inclination. It is a music to be shared and I wouldn't discourage anyone from experiencing how performing changes your music.

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

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Offline Dr. G

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2006, 06:09:04 AM »
Hey all!

WONDERFUL and most thought-provoking discussion (so far)! I have been enormously enriched by all your responses.

Sarah Jane -- Your addressing of the "British" thing was most enlightening (I've often wondered about it), and I completely concur that a someone in Manchester in 2006 can have -- and sing -- the blues with as much "authenticity" as a Mississippian in 1927. Your willingness to rethink your viewpoints -- as well as to forge ahead and do your best to share your thoughts despite the "opiate haze" and sense of occasional inarticulateness (you were anything but!) was inspirational.

Uncle Bud -- Thank you for fresh insights and for keepin' the "Purist" in us from gettin' too self-righteous! (Nothing like lookin' in the mirror to get some REAL insight!)

Johnm -- Loved, and of course resonated completely with, your comment: "We all have multitudes of voices in us, at least potentially."  This went right to a shrink's heart, it being of course about what we do all day long: help others discover the "multitude of voices" within themselves, to feel comfortable with them, and ultimately to speak in those that serve them best. Your insightful comment helped me reconcile the "disparity" -- who are you, anyway? who am I, anyway? -- thing quite comfortably and naturally. Answer: Of course we are all many people, or versions of a person. [I hinted at this in my "rock band" reference...without really articulating it well -- or even really "getting it" at the time.]

Lindy -- appreciated your thoughts about changing your tunings to fit your voice [I had touched on this area, as had some others, on the "Church Bell Blues -- 3 Settings" thread recently...if you hadn't seen it]

and waxwing -- I've been waiting to see when you'd speak up on this topic! I imagined your anticipated input  (although I had no idea what the content of said input would be) when I was starting the thread...because it occurred to me that vocal performance is so like (or is an integral part of) theatrical performance. And issues of WHO the performer "really is", and how he/she can perform a variety of roles without coming across as "fake", unbelievable, or "inauthentic" must be part of Acting 101...and to what extent various "devices", "contrivances", and "artifices" enhance the performance and to what extent they detract from it (for surely both scenarios happen). (I thought of "No" theater, Kabuki, gaudy stage productions, and a host of other theatrical stylings as I tried to come to grips with this subject.) Your treatise on where your one's voice comes from (anatomically) was most edifyin'.

I'd still like to hear from a few more "countries" before this thread peters out! Thanks again for helping bring the light....

Dr. G

Offline dj

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2006, 07:22:39 AM »
If I may throw in my completely uninformed two cents...

There are two areas of that must be considered when talking about "authenticity" and "finding one's own voice" in a style such as country blues, historical practice and present-day practice.

For historical practice, so much of what we'd like to know is lost in the haze of time and culture.  We don't know how people like Blind Lemon Jefferson or Charley Patton spoke, or very much about how they presented themselves on stage in different situations, or even the full extent of their repertoires.  We're feeling around in the dark, trying to make performance sense out of a few surviving artifacts of what was once a very complex culture.  I do try to keep in mind that what sounds "authentic" to me may not have sounded so to all of an artist's audience, that people in the Mississippi Delta may have wondered why Robert Johnson wasn't using his everyday speaking accent when he sang, or that an artist in Atlanta may have been accused of trying to sound "Texan" because he was taken with Blind Lemon Jefferson.  Things like that that may have been obvious to an audience in 1930 we just don't have the knowledge and perspective to hear today.       

As for present-day practice, waxwing makes a great point:  what we're used to hearing from modern performers are vocal techniques developed for and used in an age of amplification, while most pre-war recording artists developed their vocal techniques in a pre-amplification age.  Also,  what we hear as "authentic" in country blues is affected by a lot of cultural preconceptions that we can't avoid bringing with us when we listen to the music.  These perconceptions include our ideas of what country blues is and what it represents, our knowledge of what happened historically to the music and the artists who originally performed the music, our knowledge of and appreciation of other styles of music, and what is in style and out of style in today's culture.  And it's also affected by what appeals to us: is John Hurt more "authentic" than the vaudevillian Sloppy Henry?  Your answer depends on which performer you find more appealing.

Since it was brought up, I'd also like to address the question of "coolness".  While most knowledge of what early blues performers thought of themselves and what their audience thought of them is again lost in the past, from what we do know I'd venture to say that most of the young men singing the blues in the 1920s and 1930s thought of themselves as "cool".  It certainly seems like Robert Johnson, Tommy McLennan, Josh White, and Ishmon Bracey were all self-consciously "cool".

I guess for me what it all boils down to is that finding authenticity and finding one's own voice really boil down to finding a vocal style that will enable you to convincingly "sell" a song to an audience.

I wish I could do that...
« Last Edit: November 09, 2006, 08:43:21 AM by dj »

Offline Slack

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2006, 08:27:11 AM »
Really great discussion folks, very thought provoking. 

Quote
Your answer depends on which performer you find more appealing.

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I guess for me what it all boils down to is that finding authenticity and finding one's own voice really boil down to finding a vocal style that will enable you to convincingly "sell" a song to an audience.

Excellent points, some brought out by others too.  Maybe a variation of this is if you can show musical mastery over your vocal chords (and accompaniment) you can get away with 'murder', whether it be a gimmicks, false bass, frog voice, gravel, falsetto, southern accent etc.  Of course CB artists are not looking to 'get away' with anything - but enhance and make interesting their performance.

So Markm, since your post was the catalyst for this topic and after thinking/reading this topic, let me revise/rephrase my critique a bit of Delta Blues #1.   Keep the accent and the gravel -- but do a better job of 'selling it' through better use of phrasing and better control of pitch.  How's that?  :D


Offline markm

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2006, 09:59:23 AM »
This thread has stimulated some thought as to the origination of accents in general.  I have always found it interesting that each particular region has it?s own unique take on the English Language.  As I stated before I was a professional pilot that flew for a few years on an extensive whistle stop tour of the country and I was always amazed at the unique accents of the different regions or even micro regions (BTW this is not restricted to this country as I have also flown extensively throughout Mexico and I have learned to identify the different accents of regions there as well)

I have always wondered why the advent of television has not homogenized our language more.  Some kids spend more time watching television than communicating with people around them. I have always considered accents to be a form of imitation of those you respect and admire most, whether that be friends, contemporaries, teachers, or parents.  I think if you grew up somewhere and you basically disdained that area maybe your accent would not be as broad or possible non-existent. 

Which brings me to something I said earlier about listening to so much Delta type Blues.  I really admire those guys (for their emotional honesty as well as their incredible musical abilities) and I think that becomes sub consciously incorporated in singing the songs. But like Slack says, Hey you don?t talk that way why do you sing that way?  Which brings me to another question I always ask myself, should one rephrase or reinvent some of the phraseology of the song itself to reflect ones own experience and not that of 1930?s South (or Piedmont for that matter).   It is probably more honest but how much liberty should one take?  I do indeed do this in some covers that I do but normally not. 

 Honesty is very important to me.  Nothing puts me off more than listening to some guy from (you fill in the State) try to imitate a person from 1930?s Mississippi and call it Blues.  Maybe that was what I was identifying with so much when I listen to playback of my Delta Blues #1.  As someone mentioned there are great players today that do apparently use very little affectation and are great contemporary Bluesman.  Those being, as mentioned before, Paul Rishell but John Hammond Jr. comes to mind as well.

Well I don?t know if all this rambling really makes much sense, or more importantly, makes any kind of definitive point but those are just some thoughts that come to mind this morning.

Markm

Offline uncle bud

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2006, 11:56:06 AM »
As for "affectations", I realize after your Patton and Willie Johnson examples that when I like what someone does, I think of it as natural and unaffected--if I don't like it, I am apt to call it "affected" or "devicey".  In either case, though, there is at least some degree of affectation involved, I would think. 

Yes, I think I have the same reaction. It comes down to whether or not the performance seems "true" or not, I guess -- that coming together of guitar, vocal, effects or mannerisms in both, into a cohesive whole. It's partly selling the song, but it's also making the song your own on a comprehensive musical level.

As a side note, I just want to say I think it's perfectly possible to do this to some degree with an accent that is not typical for blues. Again, it's a question of the level of musicianship, that ability to make us suspend disbelief, if I may borrow from another medium for a moment. Roger Hubbard may have a bit of an British accent in his songs for instance, but the entire package is so compelling that it seems irrelevant to me. He's made the music his own. (Although the Brits may have earned some slack with our inner aural judges simply by being such familiar voices in popular music.) Nonetheless, I think the general tendency is to abandon our accents when singing this music if we're Canadian, German, French etc for some kind of American sound, and that can result in a more "authentic" sounding performance, or a performance that doesn't fly and sounds affected. Just depends on whether the magic is there I guess.

I also agree very much with dj about the "cool" factor. While some of the players may have been farmers and plain "folks", a lot of these guys were consciously cool -- as dj said, self-consciously cool, it would seem -- and that right there contradicts for me the idea of the ordinary, I'm-just-like-I-am-on-my-front-porch, accidental bluesman. Others were steeped in the medicine show tradition and were slick, or hams, or whatever, but "honest" and "authentic" are not necessarily words that leap to mind first, at least not before "showman" or "savvy entertainer". For every John Hurt or John Jackson there's probably more Robert Johnsons, Joe McCoys, Bogus Ben Covingtons, Roosevelt Sykes's, Pink Andersons, Tampa Reds, Frankie Jaxons, etc. When Blind Boy Fuller sings What's That Smells Like Fish or I Want Some of Your Pie, he's not being honest, he's mugging and selling records. Fred McDowell abandoned those overalls for dark shades and funky clothes soon enough. I think the issue of 'cool' can have an impact on how a song ends up coming out of someone, and this varies from performer to performer.


Offline dj

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2006, 01:31:44 PM »
I've been thinking some more about accents and authenticity.  I've mostly been thinking about British singers with American accents because, unlike American singers with American accents, I know their accents have been learned.

Thinking about this, it seems that the British singers who most successfully sing in an American accent do so with a accent that is relatively generalized.  Take, for example, Eric Burdon in the mid 60s or Peter Green in the late 60s.  Both sang with very "American" accents, but other than saying "It's not from Maine, or Wisconsin, or New York City, or Southern California", you really couldn't tell where the accent was from.  Now take Mick Jagger from the 1980s.  His singing is just not convincing, and when you listen closely you realize that it's because he's trying too hard to be all those Excello guys from central Louisiana, and it just ends up sounding silly.  He was a better singer, in my opinion, when his American accent was more generalized.

But maybe I'm totally off base here.  Can anyone think of a counter-example?

Offline Johnm

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2006, 05:34:55 PM »
Hi all,
I'm responding belatedly to Lindy's post about tuning low to suit his singing voice, as does Robert Belfour.  It makes so much sense, I think.  I remember a quote from the great Bluegrass singer, Jimmy Martin, that used to baffle me:  "If you got a voice, sing in the tone."  It took me a long time to figure out that he meant you should pitch your songs to showcase the part of your vocal range that has the most desirable tonal qualities for the style of music you are singing.  In Bluegrass, this would most often mean pitching things toward the top end of your range, where you are going to have a bright pushed sound.  In Blues, you might go for that brightness or a more conversational, "let the microphone do the work" Lightnin' Hopkins sound (not that anyone but Lightnin' can sound like Lightnin'). 
Where you pitch a song is not just an issue of tone, though.  There will also be issues of how forcefully you can sing a note, and how well you are able to control pitch in different parts of your range.  It's a lot to think about, work on and explore.
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: In Who's Voice?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2006, 01:23:42 AM »
 
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As a side note, I just want to say I think it's perfectly possible to do this to some degree with an accent that is not typical for blues. Again, it's a question of the level of musicianship, that ability to make us suspend disbelief, if I may borrow from another medium for a moment. Roger Hubbard may have a bit of an British accent in his songs for instance, but the entire package is so compelling that it seems irrelevant to me. He's made the music his own. 


I wish all you Weenies Stateside could hear Roger Hubbard play live.  It's a whole different experience.  Uncle Bud's reference to an "entire package" is so apt.  A friend once commented that Roger's guitar/mandolin and vocal work are so intermeshed they become as one.  I honestly believe he's one of the greatest living country bluesmen, but he's never had the recognition he deserves.  This means he has to supplement his gigs by working as an (expert) antique furniture restorer, which is not always kind on his guitar-picking hands!

Somebody should get him over to Port Townsend or wherever...

I'm meeting him for lunch today so will mention Uncle Bud's comments. 
« Last Edit: November 16, 2006, 07:02:37 AM by Slack »
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

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