collapse

* Member Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

* Like Us on Facebook

Have wife, must travel - Lazy Lester, Sticker on converted ammo box harp case

Author Topic: Ma Rainey & the String Players  (Read 5507 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 877
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2007, 10:26:38 AM »
Hey Richard . . . finally learned how to condense music files so here's Ma Rainey's 'Down In the Basement' featuring the mystery sawist.
Sounds like a theremin.

[attachment deleted by admin]
« Last Edit: December 02, 2007, 05:06:06 PM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 877
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2007, 12:15:57 PM »
Ma recorded with Georgia Tom & Tampa Red at two different sessions in Chicago circa September 1928. The first song from the first session is 'Daddy Goodbye Blues' in the key of 'F' & is, musically, a version of Leroy Carr's recent hit 'How Long Blues'. There are two takes of 'Sleep Talking Blues' in the key of 'E' although slightly sharp. 'Tough Luck Blues' is in 'F' & is again slightly sharp. 'Blame It On the Blues' is in the key of 'B'. 'Sweet Rough Man' is in the key of 'G' & slightly sharp. 'Runaway Blues' is in the key of 'F'. [Anyone here at Weenie with a knowledge of open tuning feel welcome to offer ideas as to how Tampa was tuned, & thanks]. All these tunes pretty much follow a I IV V arrangement & although they may not be outstanding records they are uniformly solid & strong. Tampa's tone & melodic grasp are as admirable as usual. The songs are lyrically & thematically strong as well, ripe for some present day interpretations. Why there are not more Ma songs in contemporary repertoires is beyond me. Very few of her songs are lyrically weak & are musically either open or chordally interesting enough for adaptation. Coming from a vaudeville, tin pan alley type background I would say that Ma's material was song-centric & song-strong, instrumental aspects often being incidental & icing on the cake. 'Blame It on the Blues' has a nice interplay between Tampa & Ma as she lists the people in her life that she can't blame her troubles on. 'Runaway Blues' features the only break by Tampa from the session.

The second session in Sept 1928 between the trio yielded 'Leaving This Morning' & two takes of the great 'Black Eye Blues'. 'Morning' jumps out of the gates with

'See me reeling & rockin', drunk as I can be, man I love tryin' to make a fool of me . . .'

& follows a I IV I V II V progression in the key of 'G'. Tampa does a spirited solo break, one of the few with Ma. Probably someone suggested that the Guitar Wizard be given a chance to stretch his legs!
'Black Eye Blues' is in fact no blues but rather more of a lowdown pop tune, perhaps with vaudeville roots. It is a violent lyric in which Ma overhears a couple fighting & Miss Nancy promises her abuser

           'You lowdown alligator just watch me soon or later
            gonna catch you with your britches down'

The song is in the key of 'G' & the progression varies. The intro is a I VI II V I V (G/E/A/D/G/D) (an incomplete F# is probably sometimes being played between the 'G' & 'E' chords) with the verse played I II V (G/A/D) played twice into a I III7 VIminor II V (G/B7/Em/A/D) & repeated & then into the bridge & chorus which is the intro chords (G/E/A/D/G) played twice into a I I7 IV IV7 (G/G7/C/C7) & back to the turnaround again (G/E/A/D/G/E/A/D/G). Tampa plays a long break on the chorus chords. His execution is so clean & crisp, probably the most distinctive slide style ever recorded.
Here's another Ma tune ripe for the pickin'. Although it is certainly not PC it is presented as a narrative, with Ma or the narrator telling what they heard in Hogan's Alley & is not gender specific. The Carolina Chocolate Drops cover it but I don't know of anyone else who does . . .
This is the type of tune & chord progression which virtually disappeared in the post war blues era &, for me, makes these old tunes so fresh-sounding & relevant today.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2007, 12:24:55 PM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline frankie

  • Member
  • Posts: 2441
    • DoneGone.net
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2007, 02:20:41 PM »
'Farewell Daddy Blues' was recorded circa August 1924 with possibly Milas Pruitt on sole guitar accompaniment again & is in the key of 'Ab'. Again, he may be playing a 12 string . . . 'Milas' is probably tuned down half a step & playing an 'A' chord with a I/V/I/I/IV/IV/I/VI#/II/V/I progression or A/E/A/A/D/D/A/F#/B/E/A/A. The licks are centered on the bass strings & are pretty tricky & as I said earlier this is definately an older style of guitar playing that has not caught on with revivalists so much.

I was fooling around with this tune a little while back.  Sounds to me like Milas is playing a 12-string, tuned to about B-flat and playing out of D position - that'd put him at A-flat in terms of absolute pitch.  After the VI chord, he doesn't go to the II chord, but directly to the V chord...  similar to Lemon's way of playing blues in C...  peculiar, but sounds (imho) good, even if most people wouldn't go there.

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 877
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2007, 05:05:31 PM »
Hi Frankie, you could be right about the B-flat tuning & D position. I tuned my 6 string down to B flat & it doesn't sound good at all but the runs could be working out of a D position for sure. I would probably have to have a 12 set up right to know definitely. The II chord is hit approximately 3-4 times in a total of 7-8 verses tho', but you're right that he doesn't always & goes straight to the V chord about half the time. I'm going to tune my other guitar down to Eb & check it out in 'A' position again & will get back. Anyone else have an opinion of the possible tuning & position of this or any of the other songs? Thanks

[Never got to this but Frankie & wife Kim have since done a great version of this tune & his tuning and chord position sure do sound right]

« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 01:17:54 PM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 877
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2007, 06:57:23 AM »
On Ma's final recording session in circa October 1928 she was paired with the famous banjoist Papa Charlie Jackson. Their sole record was 'Ma & Pa Poorhouse Blues'/'Big Feeling Blues'. Jackson's banjo is the only accompaniment & both share vocal duties. Jackson is playing in the key of 'E' for both songs which share the same tempo & chord progression [in the 'F Position' thread over at Licks & Lessons JohnM reveals that Charlie is playing out of an F position]: I/IV/I/VI#/II#/V/I or E/A/E/C#/F#/B/E (a Bb note is sometimes played over the IV/A chord). 'Poorhouse' is a recasting of Victoria Spivey's hit from the previous year, 'T. B. Blues'. Ma & Papa Charlie begin the song with this exchange:

'Hello there Charlie'
'Hello Ma'
'Charlie, where's that big banjo you had?
'Ma, that big banjo's in pawn'
'In pawn?'
'Yes ma'am'
'Too bad Jim'
'Hello Ma'
'Alright Charlie . . .'
'What become of that great big bus you
had?'

'Charlie/child somebody stole that bus'
'Stole it?'
'Yeah'
'Mmmmm . . .'
'Charlie, do you know I'm broke?'
'Ma, don't you know I'm broke too?'
'I tell you what let's do'
'What we gonna do?'
'Let's both go to the poorhouse together'
'Alright let's go'

One has to wonder if Ma would have tried more of this kind of accompaniment & hokum type material had she kept recording. This is a great record but a bit of a quiet note for the exit of the 'Mother of the Blues'. I'm still listening to Ma, digesting her 100+ recorded songs but I would have to say that her work with the jazz & jug bands is her best & most compelling. Some of the string accompaniment suffers from an 'appropriateness', Blake & Tampa Red especially seemed to have been fulfilling their role as session musicians & certainly their best work is to be found elsewhere, but it is still high quality, if not 'stock', material. For me, the highlights of her work with string players would be the sessions with the Pruitt Twins & the two takes of 'Black Eye Blues' although I would also single out the two sides with Papa Charlie as  worthy of attention. Ma is the real star of all her recordings though. Her mastery of the Blues form is driven home on all the different settings she was recorded in. She was an artist of rare soulfulness & depth.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2007, 01:29:52 PM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bunker Hill

  • Member
  • Posts: 2832
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2007, 11:22:54 AM »
Rather than start a new topic thought I'd tack on to this a link to a review of the JSP Ma Rainey set as written by member Jeff Harris (large cheques only Jeff, ok?) ;D

http://sundayblues.org/

Offline jharris

  • Member
  • Posts: 125
    • Big Road Blues
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2007, 04:31:32 PM »
Rather than start a new topic thought I'd tack on to this a link to a review of the JSP Ma Rainey set as written by member Jeff Harris (large cheques only Jeff, ok?) ;D

http://sundayblues.org/

As they say, the check is in the mail.  :)

Actually Cheapfeet emailed me pointing to an error in my review. The set is not complete as it misses a few alternate takes which appear on Document's "Too Late, Too Late" Vol. 11 & 13. As I mention there's a definite improvement in sound on a number of tracks. This is the best I've heard these songs and I was wondering if there's any other Rainey collections that folks think has better sound?

-Jeff H.

Offline CF

  • Member
  • Posts: 877
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2007, 08:47:04 PM »
Hi guys. I'd be surprised if Yahoo's Ma CD did not have better sound than the JSP set. But Jeff is right in that the JSP box is probably the best sounding 'completish' set out there . . . I only know of this & the Documents . . .
If the Yahoo set does not sound better then the couple tunes I have on the volume 4 & 5 Blues Images 1920s compilations certainly do to my ears . . . they are mastered by Richard Nevins. In an A-B comparison I found 'Deep Moaning Blues (1)' sounded much more open & lively on the BI CD . . . the JSP was very bassy & the surface noise greatly reduced. I've gone from praising JSP's sound to criticizing it lately due to some A-Bing of same songs/different CDs & mastering. Still great & cheap & etc tho.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline uncle bud

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • Posts: 8314
  • Rank amateur
Re: Ma Rainey & the String Players
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2008, 08:53:08 AM »
I picked up the JSP Ma Rainey set recently. As with many comparisons between JSP and Yazoo (several of which I've done over the past couple days for other artists as well), Yazoo's CD, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has better sound, IMO. This is not to say the JSP is poor. These are mostly rough quality recordings to start with, and a couple A/B comparisons with the couple Ma discs I have on Document suggest JSP has improved things. I didn't check every track on the Yazoo but the 8 or 9 I did A/B were either better quality or "different" quality, meaning equally crappy sound from a crappy source and EQ'd differently. Mostly better. But in one case there was a pretty dramatic difference: "Booze and Blues", the song that was the model for Charley Patton's "Tom Rushen", is 7 seconds shorter and a semi-tone higher in pitch on the JSP set. The Yazoo copy clocks in at 3:18 and the JSP at 3:11. Ma sounds more like Ma to me on the Yazoo for sure. Alas, like some other early Yazoo CDs, this compilation only offers 14 tracks. But for Ma fans, it would be a worthwhile purchase, definitely.

Cheapfeet, I haven't explored this thread much yet but wanted to thank you for starting it. Great idea.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2008, 08:54:39 AM by andrew »

 


SimplePortal 2.3.7 © 2008-2020, SimplePortal