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There stands a fellow, over yonder, he looks just like he wants to ponder - Uncle Dave Macon, I've Got The Mourning Blues

Author Topic: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?  (Read 3537 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2007, 12:25:33 AM »
No, I do not mean roughness, or sloppiness or lack of musicianship when I say rastiness, I am talking about clear musical choices to create dissonance and crooked time consistently, like, the same, every verse. The MJB and CJS are tight musically if you listen to them. Will Shade rehearsed the MJB mercilessly and was proud of always coming in just over 3 minutes ontheir recordings. If you listen you will hear that they are clearly playing set arrangements through most of the MJB sessions. They choose to use instruments with a certain tonality, harps, kazoos, mandolins, sing with a certain tonality, harmonize along sometimes dissonant lines, and sometimes use unsquare time in their structures. All the jokes about how drunk they were etc. are apochryphal. Listen to the music.

I agree, it's about marketing, and may have been in the '20s as well.

Have to crash. More thoughts tomorrow night.

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

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bighollowtwang

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2007, 10:25:33 AM »
No, I do not mean roughness, or sloppiness or lack of musicianship when I say rastiness, I am talking about clear musical choices to create dissonance and crooked time consistently, like, the same, every verse.
Yes, I understood it to mean clear musical choices on behalf of the original performers...when I said "poor musicianship" I was talking about how modern audiences are likely to perceive funky time or dissonance. The MJB was clearly a well-rehearsed unit playing set arrangements, and their choice of instrumentation was probably designed to produce as much volume as possible. It's just that it isn't likely to sound that way today to people who are used to listening to blandness slapped together in ProTools.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2007, 10:27:57 AM by bighollowtwang »

Offline outfidel

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2007, 07:11:13 PM »
Hi waxwing -

I'm having a little trouble with the sweet/rasty dichotomy -- some of the best old jug band music was both.

For example, in the liner notes to Before the Blues vol 2, here's the description of "K.C. Moan" by Memphis Jug Band: "The lilting, almost ethereal atmosphere of this piece belies its origins...The delicate guitar fills by Tee-Wee Blackman in the E position contribute to the dream-like ambience..."

Lilting...delicate...ethereal...You could say similar things about some of Cannon's Jug Stompers material, like "Going to Germany".

There is a real difference between the classic 20s jug band sound & the 60s jug band revival -- which makes me much prefer the former over the latter -- but I'm not sure how to describe it.
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2007, 01:12:10 PM »
Respectfully, Michael, you have a real propensity to quote other sources, often somewhat out of context and not created as responses to the discussion, rather than presenting your own feelings within the context of the discusssion. -G-

If you listen to KC Moan, which I have done many, many times, in order to work out the slide part to play with the Hohoppas, you can hear that the instrumentation is, aside from the two guitars (slide being extremely rare in pre-war jug band music), only jug, harp and Ben Ramey's very buzzy kazoo, which plays a "lilting" lick between verses. In the context of the MJB's ouvre you could call it sweet perhaps, but compared to what I heard last week, it still sounds pretty rasty to me. Lilting, delicate, etheral and rasty. It's all a question of context. the sweetest MJB or CJS tune is still rasty by comparison to the modern versions. Instrumentation and vocal styles are a big part of this. I'm sure you know what I'm saying here and are just obfuscating in jest, eh?

Okay, I've given this a lot of thought over the last few days and I think there may be a few more issues at play. One is amplification. The prewar folks were playing all their regular gigs unamplified, and needed to create a style that reached out and vocals that cut through the instruments and carried well outdoors or in loud jooks. When they got into the studio they would hardly be aware that they could sing and play in a completely different style, perhaps, and still be heard, and besides, they were being recorded beacuse of how they sounded live. The modern jug bands, especially in the current reiterations, have pretty much done nothing but sing and play through mics and amplified instruments (Kweskin and Muldaur plugged in, but, to their credit, Sebastian, Grisman and most of the Barbeque guys played acoustically through mics). I think this has a profound effect on one's playing and singing. And why not, it takes a hell of a lot less effort.

But this still doesn't preclude a modern artist from making the choice to play and sing in a very rasty style (see Tom Waits). I'm sorry, but I just don't buy the "some people are just born to play sweet and some people are just born to play rasty, it's all in your nature" theory. Different eras seem to foster many more bands of one style or another. Perhaps what is more in people's nature is to copy something that is currently successful? MJB and CJS were part of a wave of JBs that were recorded in the late 20's and early '30s. Perhaps this style grew out of folk traditions among poor African Americans in the south, or perhaps it was just invented by some guys in Louisville mimicing the hot riverboat jazz bands with instrumentation they could afford? Whatever, the record companies started to record it and it was popular. As we have seen with many blues players who may have had far wider repertoires, the A & R guys would likely limit the bands to an already successful format. Maybe the MJB and CJS didn't have so much choice either, just being part of a larger commercial campaign focusing on rough "country" sounding material.

In the early '60s, when the record companies really were King, they very likely looked at the players who comprised Kweskin's Jug Band and the Even Dozen JB as being part of the folk movement. They were doing pretty well at that point recording some very pretty and sweet sounding folk singers. Practically every song was ethereal and lilting. I think even if these bands came into the studio with a rasty sound, it's very likely the A & R guys would have, uh, "requested" a few changes? And, here these folks were in their first big time recording session. Of course they wanted to be successful. They were young, impressionable, and wanted to have successful careers. If the A & R guy said make it sweet and down play the kazoos and weird harmonies, well alright then.

Actually, Tom Waits brings up an interesting point. When I was studying theatre in college in the early '70s, and all my fellow classmates and I wanted to do weird, off the wall "experimental' theatre, one of my profs said,  sure, we could do that, but if we wanted anyone to see it, we had to be successful doing doing it "their way" first and then we could do it "our way". Tom Waits did exactly that. His first two albums are pretty mainstream, mostly just a guy playing piano and singing ballads with a pretty normal throat voice (you know, the one folks call "your" voice). After he had success doing that, he moved more to the gravelly voice and seriously low-life lyrics for which he is so famous. Fortunately for him, it took off.

Perhaps Kweskin and the other '60s artists could have changed their style if their original sound had had more follow up success. If they had wanted to, that is. I don't mean to be critical of any of the paths these artists took, just to see them in perspective.

And also, maybe, to inform my own performances. Should I feel that I have to fit into a more mainstream style if I expect to create any kind of audience for my music? Or does the internet change all that? Is there now a way for me to reach those folks who would appreciate music played more in the style of the old blues players? Well, food for thought.

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

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Offline jed

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #19 on: September 02, 2007, 03:14:41 PM »
Lots of good stuff here.  JohnM emphasized personal style.  Perhaps the issue is whether and when it trumps market sensitivity.  A friend reminded me today of a local player who copped Johnny Winter's rasty singing and note-riddled playing style (which made him unusual and got him into clubs), and continued to speed up (and distort) his playing (which helped get him onto larger stages), while taking his fingerpicking/slide style from what sounds a whole lot like Steve James (works pretty well once you've banged their heads into attention).  Most of the next generation will simply recognize it as his style.  And, by now, it may be. 

The question that continues to puzzle me is how much of anyone's personal style is self-driven, and how much is driven by audience response. 

The internet, in my opinion, makes everything possible.  It provides a way to pursue niche marketing to an infinite degree.  It's just begun - in a decade or less, the means to display and enjoy every type of style will be really well-distributed. 

"Build Me Up Buttercup."  "Disco Inferno."  Sounds like the kind of trouble Guy van Duser (or one or two of our moderators) could get into.

Cheers,
Jed
ok then:  http://jed.net

Offline outfidel

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2007, 05:51:51 PM »
I'm sure you know what I'm saying here and are just obfuscating in jest, eh?

John, if you meant what I think you meant, then I totally agree, unless you didn't & then I don't. ;)

btw do you have any mp3's of the Hohoppas doing "KC Moan"? I'd love to hear your "etherasty" version.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2007, 08:31:45 AM by outfidel »
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2007, 06:52:57 PM »
I have a recording, with wind, of a live performance (last years SF Jug Fest) and maybe one from a rehearsal before our first gig at the Portland Waterfront Blues Fest, both on minidiscs and both pretty poor recordings. I don't have time right now to record into Garageband (it's a fairly old MD player) and then convert to mp3, but maybe later in the fall. We use the same instrumentation, 2 guitars, jug, harp and kazoo, as the original. 'Course, there's only three of us, so the jug cuts out while I sing (and play the slide licks) but we do a pretty good job on the three part harmonies.-G-

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

Offline Buzz

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2007, 07:13:22 PM »
Wax:

I have found an early duet of you and me only when preparing for Portland, on Windows MEdia Player, no Chez on slide, but YOU on slide and washboard, me on kazoo and guitar backing you up, early 2 part harmony. Good ethos, but far from a  'great' version.  ::)

Just can't figure how to copy it to send to you. Your mentioned versions may be better to share when you get to them...

All best,
 Buzz
Do good, be nice, eat well, smile, treat the ladies well, and ignore all news reports--which  can't be believed anyway,

Buzz

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Jug Band Music/Blues - Sweet or Rasty?
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2007, 07:24:41 AM »
Quote
I don't have time right now to record into Garageband (it's a fairly old MD player) and then convert to mp3,

C'mon, John, we wanna hear it NOW!!!

How's the cd coming?

Mike

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