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Now you can go to college, and you can go to school. But if you ain't got Jesus, you an educated fool - Washington Phillips, Denomination Blues

Author Topic: King Solomon Hill  (Read 5237 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #15 on: January 19, 2008, 09:29:32 AM »
Ah, and Stefan's discography reminds me that Gone Dead Train and Whoopee Blues also appear on Yazoo's Mississippi Masters, which is still available it seems.

The better transfer of "Tell Me Baby" on the Yazoo Don't Leave Me Here disc seems to be the only option other than Backwoods Blues. I'd suggest looking for the Yazoo used. Can't be too hard to find. Not at Amazon though, where it's currently going for $67 (!).

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #16 on: January 19, 2008, 10:06:25 AM »
may be 'redoubtable'  ;) but there's a King Solomon Hill discography
Thank you Stefan. Seeing that 1954 10 inch LP Backwoods Blues reminded me of the review given to the British release by Alexis Korner in Jazz Journal (February 1955, p.6-7). Had to scan it. They don't write them like this any more...some may say "thank the Lord for that!" But it was 53 years ago.

Backwoods Blues
By Alexis Korner

Many things are of the night and of the hard forest; many things are of the lowland, the swamp and decaying wood. There is a scent of fear and oppression and yet there is also an occasional relieving freedom in the kinder hours of the moon. The sun lays bare the fears which the moon implies and the rusting heat of a great river plain gives sight to a world of folklore. The clarity of the day forms the feelings which are sung at the darkening hours when most beings are asleep. Yet some are awake for love of their slight freedoms, some from hunger and impending death; all is a great lassitude.

Through this infinite transparency of space shudder streaks of scarlet life which burn their faint mark before their quenching. After a time the transparency takes on a faint colour and, through this medium, a faint definition' A folklore is founded and, while the weight of unknown fear is resolved into known quantities so the small amounts of gladness become apparent where, before, they had been lost to all senses. The human arts of description are thrust into specific patterns which depict given situations both physical and emotional. The voice takes its lore with chanting tones and music is conceived for worship, for sadness, for joy. So with the blues there is a the weight of hard held simplicity and desperate courage; there is a great suffocation of the heart.

FINEST SET OF FOLK BLUES

On London AL3535 is to be found the finest set of folk blues issued in this country. The five artists to be heard, though but four are named, are in the highest order of blues singers and this Long Player would, on its own, be a first class basis for a sound collection. of vocal blues.

There is a cohesion of atmosphere in six of the eight tracks which excuses the seemingly unnecessary inclusion of the two sides by Big Bill Johnson which though very good, have no real place in this remarkable collection of folk blues. However, I would prefer to deal with these two sides in the proper order of events.

Bobby Grant demonstrates to the fullest extent the tearing weight of blues in his beautiful 16 bar "Nappy Head Blues." It would be difficult to find many finer examples of the singing treble string work which is so much a part of the Southern Country style, a style which will never be bettered. This completeness of sound which is created by such ringing duplication of the voice, the rich riding beat and the surge of the bass strings. In voice, Bobby Grant is a man on his own who does not appear to 'owe' his style to any other important singer of whom I have heard. He uses the traditional trailed off note at the end of a phrase leaving the listener with a sympathy for his great sorrow. This is a strangeness which has become part of the blues. There is an apparent inability to finish the final word, an inability which creates a strong feeling of pity, for one so tired in spirit. Here is a strong man in a weary mood with an innate ability to express both his immediate feeling and his personality in music, a man of the darkened forest.

OBSCURITY

The general obscurity which clouds the early Paramount session will always create much speculation about dates and artists and the following track can simply be added to many other controversies. This is surely not Bobby Grant. The voice is higher and thinner, the atmosphere more plaintive. In "Lonesome Atlanta Blues" the guitar whines more viciously, the tempo is slower and the entire performance is that of a weaker man, though a fine singer. Through his weakness comes a deeper hurt, deeper because he is less able to combat it. The road is very long, the handicaps very heavy for a man so weary. This is a hopeless man who can sing but a hopeless song.

Buddy Boy Hawkins takes us into the darkest wood at the base of a deep valley in which he just sits and sings. A feeling of impenetrable density which he has, in some strange fashion, pierced with his songs; the whole a flow with beauty. An astonishing singer whose style is a weird mixture of Chippie Hill and any fine Gospel singer, whose almost vaudeville introduction to "Jailhouse Fire Blues", belies the entrancing authenticity of his performances. Such even guitar playing as this demonstrates completely the amazing effect which was so often achieved in the country lore, an effect which became lost in the later period of the Classic singers. The basic difference was to become evident with the reign of Bessie Smith, whose sense of drama changed the entire conception of this music. The later singers, conscious of the effect which they were creating, became more ferocious; they roared where their predecessors had spoken, they insinuated where their predecessors had been simple and frank. They were more publicised, rarely if ever were they greater in their singing or playing. It is comparatively rare to hear such guitar playing as Buddy Boy Hawkins'; the almost classical tone of the early string instrument running on ceaselessly from note to note in a magnificently even flow which is enriched by his finely used notes on the bass strings. His shift of emphasis in the voice is superb, the most notable example occurring in the last verse of "Shaggy Dog Blues". Here he shifts from the word 'told' in the first line, to the word 'me' in the repeat with intense dramatic effect.

No less dramatic are "The Dead Gone Train" and "Tell Me Baby" by King Solomon Hill. The first incisive notes of the guitar set the pattern for this singer of contrasts. It is fine thrusting playing with no specific form or meter. Both his singing and playing are entirely free, completely rejecting the limitation of 8, 12 or 16 bar lengths to a verse. His voice is very high and becomes, at times, almost inseparable from his guitar notes. With a sudden fast vibrato he cuts through his entire pattern in an amazingly confident fashion and then reverts to it quite suddenly, finishing off his vocal phrase with identical notes on the guitar.

The echoing whoops of his singing are of the heat, of the open plain, of the long sky. A powerful pathos in his voice, an unrelenting fire in his accompaniment.

BIG BILL

The last two tracks on this record are, undoubtedly by Big Bill Broonzy. He has stated quite definitely that he made some recordings for Champion in 1932 and he has also been known to sign himself as 'William Johnson'. Leaving aside these two pieces of evidence, the music itself is a complete proof of identity from first to last. Much as I love Broonzy I wish that these two sides had been left out for they do not logically fit the mood of this Long Player and are, by contrast, disappointing. . ..

There is still much of the Mississippi in Broonzy's singing but he is too sophisticated a singer to be rightfully included in a record which is entitled 'Backwoods Blues' and, for this reason, I do not feel that more should be said about his performances than this: Both "Mr. Conductor Blues." and "Big Bill Blues" are fine tracks recorded by a great singer.

INDIVIDUAL CREATIONS

Were there more proof required of the fact that the good blues singers worked on their material, then this record would provide it. Each item is carefully worked out. The blues, even when they are of equal 8 or 12 bar length are individual creations. They are not merely set sequences of chords they are songs and the similarity between "Shaggy Dog Blues." and" Mr. Conductor Blues." is no greater than between Bessie's "St. Louis Blues." and Lena Horne's " 'Deed I do". There is an infinite variety of style and melody which cannot be hampered by mere chordal progressions. On several of these sides, the accompanying phrases have been most carefully worked out and are hardly varied, the variation being left to the voice. The melody was all important, not the chords, and it was upon the melody that the variations were based, hence the sometimes strange discords which carry this music through its veil of mystery. Beat and feeling, ability and care are here. This genuine knowledge, thoroughly rehearsed, created the basis for a complete spontaneity which could only come with absolute freedom from musical restriction. A grave courage was innate in these singers who always avoided the tinge of petty bickerings and pompous dicta, and an awesome understanding of their illimitable gift for life.

Offline CF

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2008, 10:01:03 AM »
I just noticed at the bottom of the 1941-42 page here at the Fort Valley Music Festival site that a Joe Holmes from Macon is listed as a performer . . . could it be?

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ftvhtml/ftvrrb2.html
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline uncle bud

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2008, 10:04:01 AM »
"Mysterious"?  Check out Gayle Dean Wardlow's writing on him in his prololgue in Chasin' That Devil Music.  IMHO, everybody interested in "country blues" should own or read this book.  It is a wonderful resource.

Couldn't let this slip by without seconding it heartily. If you don't have it, get this book. Mystery solved...

Offline bnemerov

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2008, 07:12:27 AM »
There were (at least) two Joe Holmes. Wardlow found an informant who gave that as King Soloman Hill's real name.
But the Joe Holmes from Georgia was a Macon street singer recorded by Prof. John Work while on his way to Fort Valley as a judge of the spring 1941 music contests.
I did a piece for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" a year ago. It's archived at their site.
Also, the complete recording of Holmes is on "Recording Black Culture: John Work, III" a CD of the Professor's field recordings---most unheard 'til now. Work didn't donate all his stuff to the Library of Congress. BTW, the Cd's been nominated for a Grammy. Strange things happenin' every day!
Bruce

Offline Eldergreene

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2008, 03:53:44 PM »
Just bumping this as, by a happy coincidence, I've just been listening to KSH/Joe Holmes a whole lot - I'm intrigued by what tuning he's using; I'd have said vestapol, except that to my ears there's no trace of the usual major 3rd/ F# note - is there a form of vestapol that would fit? I also notice a lot of similarity to Ramblin Thomas' guitar work, but the total effect of Hill is way more powerful, for me..only wish there was more of it..oh, & ditto on the Wardlow book, a great read..

Offline banjochris

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2008, 07:22:10 PM »
I'm think he's in regular Vestapol -- his right hand is very clean, and he's not strumming, so you wouldn't necessarily hear the F#, but a dissonant F natural (if he was in cross-note) would stand out more. In "Down on My Bended Knee" at least, it sounds to me like he's playing a normal IV chord without the note on the second string, plus in many songs I think you can hear a little bit of the third string when he does slides up to the fifth fret of the second string.
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #22 on: February 19, 2008, 08:30:27 AM »
Hi all,
I agree with Chris that King Solomon Hill is in Vestapol.  The best give-away is that when he slides into a I note at the fifth fret of the second string, he always gets the third string as well with his slide, and it sounds a VI note (third of the IV chord), which is what lives at the fifth fret of the third string in Vestapol tuning.
All best,
Johnm

Offline CF

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2008, 05:00:46 AM »
Thought I'd give a heads up for those of you who don't frequent Jeff Harris' blog which is a companion to his great Sunday blues program Big Road Blues. His latest entry concerns King Solomon Hill & it has 6 Hill mp3s.

http://sundayblues.org/
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline uncle bud

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2008, 06:32:05 AM »
Thanks for that, CF. Nice article by Jeff, and I didn't have one of the new tracks.

Offline Forgetful Jones

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Re: King Solomon Hill
« Reply #25 on: May 28, 2016, 07:12:28 AM »
This is a pretty old thread, and I don't have a ton to offer, but I have to agree with everyone on King Solomon Hill. His sound is so eerie. I've been listening to him a lot lately. Funny thing is that I had the Yazoo "Mississippi Masters" for years before I realized just how great he is.

My favorite track has to be My Buddy Papa Blind Lemon. Playing-wise, I love the rhythm he creates in the way he alternates between thumb & index finger throughout the song. Then he contrasts that with the slide work when he backs off of the bass notes at times. The stretch from about 2:12-2:20 to me is particularly interesting. Add that with the way he knocks on the guitar body and his voice and it's an amazingly textured tune. A masterpiece of a song if you ask me.



Not sure why all the YouTube clips are missing that cool bent-note intro

 


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