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Author Topic: The Hernando "A" Sound  (Read 3806 times)

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Offline Johnm

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The Hernando "A" Sound
« on: May 18, 2007, 12:20:49 AM »
Hi all,
I've been thinking about a way of playing in A in standard tuning that some Mississippi players employed in years gone by.  The most notable source of the sound is Garfield Akers, for all four of his recorded numbers, "Cottonfield Blues, Part 1", "Cottonfield Blues, Part 2", Dough Roller Blues", and "Jumpin' And Shoutin' Blues" epitomize the sound.  The sound is characterized by a monotonic bass that sometimes doubles up and hits at the rate of eighth rather than quarter notes (and which may also play little boogie-ish runs), and a pared-back chordal vocabulary, returning to the IV7 chord for ninth and ten bars of the 12-bar form and avoiding the V7 chord altogether. 
Robert Wilkins, like Akers, was originally from in or near Hernando near the northern border of Mississippi and close to Memphis.  Wilkins's song, "Get Away Blues"  is very much speaking in  the same musical language as the one Akers used for his songs, even to the extent of avoiding the V chord.  Steven Calt points out in his notes to the Yazoo CD, "Robert Wilkins--The Original Rolling Stone", that Wilkins had not heard or met Akers at the time he recorded "Get Away Blues", so perhaps the source of the sound was someone apart from the two of them that each musician heard independently 
Some very early cuts recorded by Mississippian Freddie Spruell, "Muddy Water Blues" and "Milk Cow Blues", show a right hand approach that make him appear a possible candidate as the fountainhead of the style.  Freddie is more conventional harmonically, though and does go to his V chords where most people do in the 12-bar form. 
Joe McCoy's "Something's Going To Happen To You", from 1935 has this distinctive sound in spades, but perhaps the most surprising practioner in the style is Isaiah Nettles, the "Mississippi Moaner", who for the greatest part styles his "Mississippi Moan" after Lemon Jefferson, but who reverts, at the very end of the form, to a concluding lick that comes right out of the sound Akers and Wilkins employed.
One semi-surprising thing is that Joe Callicott, who joined Akers on "Cottonfields, Parts 1 and 2", never played anything that sounded remotely in this style in his solo recordings that I have heard, either pre or post-rediscovery, though I have not heard the recently released Blue Horizon sessions.  For any of you who have those sessions, did Joe play anything out of A in standard tuning in them that fits into the style in question?
I'm curious if any of you have come across other recordings in this style.  Let us know if you think of any.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 18, 2007, 07:44:59 AM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2007, 07:39:46 AM »
Hi John,

I finally got a moment to listen again to the Blue Horizon recordings from Joe Callicott. There's nothing on there that fits your description of the Hernando A sound. All accompaniments fit stylistically, more or less, into what we already know of Callicott from the Mitchell recordings. There are a few forms that differ somewhat, like War Time Blues (in C) and Lost My Money in Jim Kinnane's (in G, with an unusual V - I - V- I - repeating form), but nothing in A to my ear. There is a tune called Dough Roller Blues but this is done with Joe's standard I - IV - I - V - I form in D position.

UB

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2007, 08:37:53 AM »
Thanks for the info on the Blue Horizon recordings, Uncle Bud.  It seems like Joe Callicott considered that Hernando "A"" sound to be Garfield Akers' property, more or less.  In a way, it's surprising Joe meshed with Akers so well on the two takes of "Cottonfield", because in his own tunes, Joe's sense of groove and timing seems altogether different.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2009, 06:03:02 PM »
Hi all,
I've been listening to Hacksaw Harney a lot lately, preparatory to transcribing a couple of his tunes.  There is so little of his playing available that it's more than a bit frustrating.  I noticed though, that about 4'20'' into his rendition of "The Delta Eagle" on his Genes CD album "Sweet Man", he launches into a groove switch that results in him doing the closest recreation of Garfield Akers and Joe Callicott's collective time-keeping on "Cottonfields, Part 1" that I have heard, I believe.  The interesting thing about it is that Hacksaw is playing in D in standard tuning, not A, as did Akers and just about everyone else who approximated his sound and rhythmic feel.  And not only does Hacksaw capture the groove, he captures the sound, despite playing solo and in a different key and position than were Akers and Callicott.
Hacksaw must certainly rank as one of the great enigmas in the realm of Country Blues guitar players.  A native Mississippian, his sound differs from that of all other Mississippi players with the exception of Eugene Powell, who hung with him and emulated him.  Hacksaw utilized a lot of positions I've heard no one else in the style use (including Rev. Davis), and occasionally uses a brushed tritone in the bass to outline his harmonic movement, like so.  For an A7 chord, he holds down and brushes the following two notes in the bass:  X-4-5.  This gives him the third of the A7 on the fifth string and the seventh of the A7 on the fourth string.  When he comes to D7, he slides the position down one fret to X-3-4, which gives him the seventh of the D7 on the fifth string and the third of the D7 on the fourth string.  He's able to play runs in the treble while doing this, too.  It's a tremendously economical use of the left hand and gives an authentic Jazz sound to a blues progression.  The very same approach was arrived at independently by the great Canadian Jazz guitarist Lenny Breaux.  If you love innovative and exciting approaches to Country Blues guitar and are not familiar with Hacksaw's playing, you owe it to yourself to seek out his CD, "Richard "Hacksaw" Harney--Sweet Man" on Genes CD Co., GCD 9909.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2010, 07:25:08 AM »
Holy gleep! i just found this CD in a used book-record store in my neighborhood and am absolutely blown away!
Shows to go ya that you can be in and around this music for a long time and still not know it all! What an amazing player! Right in the top tier imho.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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

Offline bnemerov

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2010, 01:05:34 PM »
and some think his piano playing was even better than his guitar...very sophisticated man.
his brother was also pretty hot.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2010, 01:08:28 PM by bnemerov »

Offline frankie

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2010, 02:08:19 PM »
and some think his piano playing was even better than his guitar...very sophisticated man.
his brother was also pretty hot.

Ray Alden told me he had some recordings of Hacksaw, probably from the Clearwater festival...  there were plans for some blues releases from FRC, so I hope they may still see the light of day.

Bruce - any insight into who was playing which part on Twelve Pound Daddy?  And was Hacksaw "Pet" or "Can?" :-)

Offline bnemerov

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2010, 03:50:56 PM »
Frank,
I've never understood what those "nicknames" were all about. Were Richard and his brother called that anywhere but on a record label?
Maybe they flipped a coin for who got to be "Pet."
Bruce

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2011, 08:30:43 AM »
Thanks for the info on the Blue Horizon recordings, Uncle Bud.  It seems like Joe Callicott considered that Hernando "A"" sound to be Garfield Akers' property, more or less.  In a way, it's surprising Joe meshed with Akers so well on the two takes of "Cottonfield", because in his own tunes, Joe's sense of groove and timing seems altogether different.
All best,
Johnm

As it turns out, I recently heard some the Joe Callicott material recorded by George Mitchell that is not currently available on CD and was originally released on the Revival LP Deal Gone Down. There is a track called Riverside Blues where Joe indeed plays out of A position using the same style of accompaniment as found on Garfield Akers' Jumpin' and Shoutin' Blues and Cottonfield Blues. At the end of the track, you can hear Joe, laughing, say something like, "I tried, it's been a lo-ong time..." Perhaps he was playing in this style by request. And while it may have been a long time, it's a pretty solid track, and I'm surprised it never made it onto the currently available releases. Somewhat slower, heavier time.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2011, 08:32:34 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2011, 10:33:35 AM »
Hi all,
This has only the most slender connection to this thread, but since it was brought up earlier here, I wonder if the early nicknames for Richard "Hacksaw" Harney and his brother, Malon, "Pet" and "Can", might have had their origin in some kind of inside reference to Pet Evaporated Milk, which comes in a can.  Just a thought.
All best,
Johnm

Offline jpeters609

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2011, 11:13:45 AM »
Hi all,
This has only the most slender connection to this thread, but since it was brought up earlier here, I wonder if the early nicknames for Richard "Hacksaw" Harney and his brother, Malon, "Pet" and "Can", might have had their origin in some kind of inside reference to Pet Evaporated Milk, which comes in a can.  Just a thought.
All best,
Johnm

To extend this slender connection a bit further, I will only add that Pet Evaporated Milk is no stranger to the blues world, as attested to by J.B. Hutto's "Pet Cream Man" (what Mr. Hutto was alluding to is best left to the listener to ponder.)
Jeff

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2011, 11:41:20 AM »
Does this one count??

Offline Johnm

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2011, 11:58:34 AM »
That sounds dead on the money to me, Scratchy.  The time and the licks in A seem squarely in the style.  Who is the fiddler?
All best,
Johnm

Offline blueshome

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2011, 12:49:02 PM »
I have a recollection from childhood of a  game where Pet and Can were involved in some way as partners. I know when I first read the names in BGR it didn't seem at all strange to me that these names were given to playing partners. Maybe it related to characters in some book or play now long forgotten. Sorry I can't remember anything more.

Offline dj

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Re: The Hernando "A" Sound
« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2011, 01:50:17 PM »
Quote
Who is the fiddler?

John, both B&GR 3 and 4 and the notes to the Document CD list the fiddler as unknown.

 


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