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'W.C Handy Is A Liar!' Says Jelly Roll - Down Beat headline August 1938, from Lost Sounds by Tim Brooks

Author Topic: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar and postwar recordings  (Read 10415 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2008, 09:48:13 PM »
And there I went. I know I'm gonna regret this but, I actually do find this particular aesthetic backwater (recording "enhancements") to contain some interesting issues, concerning perceptions of reality, ideas about fidelity and a listeners ideas of responsibility to same. I used to berate myself for digging the reverb on exactly those two records while knowing that it violated not only the "truth in Blues" mandate but also the never foul the source mandate issued by the recording and stereopheliac geekazoid council with whom I've also had some dealings. Interestingly it was a Glenn Gould record of Sebelius Piano pieces that helped me to embrace my secret depravity. I figured if as great an artist as Glenn Gould thought it was OK to artificially fuck around with the sound and soundspace of his performances then it was all fair game. Arguably him doing it for his own aesthetic reasons on his own recordings is a horse of a different color than imposing it on someone else's work, but did they object? There is a quality that the reverb lends to the performances on those two records which I would describe as heroic and mythologizing. The music seems to emanate out of some supra-normal oracular Blues Dephi. Part of this is a result of the time delay, echo-ish quality by which we hear the music in effect twice in the same instant. Rather than distancing me from the experience it seems to make it almost more urgent and haunting. Has anyone had similar feelings or should I go hide now.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2008, 10:29:38 PM »
Quote
The music seems to emanate out of some supra-normal oracular Blues Dephi

...or a rather large bathroom.  :P I started to think there was something good about it when I heard Scotty Moore was responsible! Call me superficial.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2008, 06:00:48 AM »
..or a rather large bathroom. 

HEEyaaawwwk!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2008, 08:10:19 AM »
Rivers beat me to it.

I was once at an event in a private club (not a regular haunt of mine, they undoubtedly wouldn't let me in normally - it was a work event) with one of those very large gents' rooms done up in marble and tile and mirror. There was some distant Scots connection to the event and so they were going to have a bagpiper piping people into the dinner hall. After my third complimentary cocktail, I decided to pay the marble emporium a visit. Turns out bagpipes really need to be warmed up for awhile before they are "in tune" (hah) and the musician had chosen the bathroom to do so. Wow. Talk about supra-normal Delphic reverb experiences.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2008, 09:31:44 AM »
Hi O'Muck,
I think I know what you were talking about.  I remember hearing a Stanley Brothers recording of "The water rolls by, on the river at midnight" from the '50s with really dire "Help! We've fallen in a well!" reverb, and there was something about the whole soundscape, with their tense harmonies and the banjo and fiddle rolling along and seemingly unending echo that just sort of nailed, not only the sound of the recording, but where I was when I heard it, whose house I was in, who else was there, the interior decor of the room where I heard it, et al into my mind forever, I think.  And this was over thirty-five years ago.  Something about that crappy sound went a long ways toward establishing the particularity and "thing-ness" of that piece of music for me. 

For better or for worse, I find that for me, such responses diminish with age.  It helps to be young when you first hear it and to have a vivid imagination and not to have heard as much music.  If I heard the same recording for the first time now, I expect my response would be, "Oh man, that reverb is brutal.  What were they thinking?"
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: March 04, 2008, 02:48:46 PM by Johnm »

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2008, 04:47:10 PM »
I have the feeling that Furry played some things in Spanish in the '60s that he had played in Vestapol on the early recordings. "Turn Your Money Green," for one.
And while we're on this timely topic -- make sure to celebrate the birthdays of Furry Lewis and Steve Cheseborough this Thursday (March 6)! Honor to share a birthday with the great Mr. Lewis. Cheers, Chezz

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #21 on: March 04, 2008, 04:50:40 PM »
Hi Chezz,
The original of "I will Turn Your Money Green" was in Spanish too.  Have a happy birthday.
all best,
Johnm

Offline Chezztone

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2008, 01:12:02 PM »
I don't think so. Try listening to the original and playing along with it both ways. Thanks for the birthday wish! I did play a couple Furry songs at my restaurant gig that day, in case anyone cared (it didn't seem like they did). SC

Offline Steve Pajik

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #23 on: December 27, 2010, 09:49:38 PM »
I'm two years late joining this message thread, but better late than never, eh?  :D For what it's worth (admittedly, not a whole heckuva lot), I love the reverb on Shake Em On Down. To me, it gives the album a sacred, bigger-than-life sound, like Furry's performing in a cathedral. SEOD is one of my favourite blues albums of all-time -- definitely one of my stranded-on-a-deserted-island albums. In fact, SEOD was one of the primary catalysts for my getting into country blues one year ago. I realize that the reverb makes the album kinda anomalous as far as country blues recordings go (although I find Skip James' 1960's albums kinda "verby" too!), but whatever. I like it. I love unreverberated country blues, too. (sounds more earthy and front porch-y). But the ethereal quality of SEOD really strikes a chord with me.

Is "unreverberated" even a real word? No? Well, gosh darn it, it should be!  ;)

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2012, 09:09:34 PM »
Quote
and the reverb on those is just godawful, really a shame.  It could so easily have been avoided.

Well maybe I ain't  gots no couth but I LOVE THE FREAKIN' REVERB ON MEMPHIS WILLIE B & FURRY"S RECORDS!

As a mater of fact I'm starting my own reissue company whose goal it will be to put reverb on every single blues 78 ever recorded! It will be a subsidiary of my Muck-O-Phone label called "Reverb'll Fix It" records

Maybe I'm losing my couth, but I was kind of digging the Furry reverb tonight.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2012, 09:35:49 PM »
I keep waiting for WW and the Dixie Dance Kings to show on late night television, so I can see it. My expectations are not high.  ;D

I know this quote is old, but...

I taped this off cable quite a few years ago -- I should transfer the Furry part and upload it to YouTube. It is, indeed, a terrible movie, but the part with Furry is great.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2012, 10:35:56 PM »
I listened to the reverberated Furry album a dozen or so times back-to-back once. I can report that after a while you tend to adjust and don't notice the reverb so much. It's a class piece of work from Furry, if you can get past the 'steely sided slabs of sound', snuck in later by the studio guys playing with new toys no doubt.

Still, they (who are they, anyway?) would be doing the planet a great service if they found the masters and kind of, um, slightly remixed it. Still a great record though.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2014, 10:49:35 AM »
Hi all,
I've been doing a lot of listening to Furry Lewis recently, both his early recordings and his post-rediscovery recordings, and have come to the conclusion that of all of his songs that sound as though they're played out of E position in standard tuning, the only ones that are, in fact, played out of E position in standard tuning are his 8-bar blues.  For his early recordings, this would put "Dry Land Blues" as his only song played out of E position in standard tuning, and similarly on the Sam Charters-produced "Shake 'Em On Down", originally issued as two LPs on Prestige Bluesville, the only song played out of E position in standard tuning would be "Done Changed My Mind", another 8-bar blues. 
All of Furry's other songs that had an "E position, standard tuning" sound were played out of the EAEGBE tuning, moved down in pitch, generally, to accommodate Furry's vocal range.  Thus, of his early recordings, "Jelly Roll", "Mean Old Bedbug Blues", Mistreatin' Mama" and "Creeper's Blues" were all played out of the EAEGBE tuning.  Interestingly enough, he had four early recording sessions and he recorded exactly one of these EAEGBE tunes at each of those sessions.  For the "Shake 'Em On Down" sessions for Prestige Bluesville, the following songs were played out of EAEGBE tuning:  "Shake 'Em On Down", "White Lightnin'", "Goin' To Kansas City", "I Will Turn Your Money Green", and "Long Tall Gal Blues".
One of the interesting things about Furry that is a bit unusual as compared to other Country Blues musicians who had early recordings and post-rediscovery recordings is that Furry often changed tuning or playing position for a given song between the position he used for his early recording of that song versus the tuning or playing position he chose to play it out of in his post-rediscovery period.  A couple of examples:  Furry's early recording of "I Will Turn Your Money Green" was played out of Spanish tuning, and his "Shake 'Em On Down" recording of "I Will Turn Your Money Green" was played out of the EAEGBE tuning, with an altogether different melody.  Similarly, his early recording of "Big Chief Blues" was played out of Vestapol tuning, but his "Shake 'Em On Down" version was played out of Spanish tuning, with a different melody.
We are fortunate that Furry was recorded so much in his post-rediscovery period, for his music stayed very strong into that period, with great singing and always terrific lyrics.  This is in addition to his personality, which makes so many of his performances unforgettable.  With the late-period Furry recordings, I always feel as though I'm hearing so much more than a rendition of a song--I'm hearing a life.  If you haven't heard the late-period Furry recordings, I encourage you to seek them out, they're really stellar, and a lot of his playing in the EAEGBE tuning is so intricate and so greasy, it is a joy to hear.
All best,
Johnm   
« Last Edit: March 03, 2014, 10:51:13 AM by Johnm »

Offline pkeane

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2014, 08:57:20 PM »
John -

Thanks so much!  Super-helpful.  Mean Old Bedbug is making a lot more sense now :-).

best-
Peter

Offline Johnm

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Re: Furry Lewis Guitar Keys and Positions, prewar recordings
« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2014, 03:23:33 PM »
You're welcome, Peter, and I look forward to hearing you sing and play one of Furry's EAEGBE tunes one of these days.  I'm glad the songs are making more sense.
All best,
Johnm

 


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