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If it meets with your approval, we are glad to recommend that the above named man be allowed to make music on the streets of Durham at a place designated by you - Blind Boy Fuller, letter to Chief of Police on Fuller's behalf

Author Topic: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest  (Read 1823 times)

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Offline pbyhre

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Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« on: July 07, 2008, 09:40:56 AM »
Got to see Robert Belfour play yesterday at the blues fest here in Portland.  WOW!  I was right up front so I could try and see what he was doing.  Right hand seemed reasonably straight forward.  Left hand featured lots of fast hammer-ons and pull-offs.  Does he do more of this than most hill country players?  In his workshop, he said that he was using standard tuning for most of his songs, which I couldn't believe because of the "darkness" of his sound.  But then I searched the archives here and see that he actually does use standard tuning, but tuned down 3 half steps. 

I sure wish someone would do a hill country instructional video or book.  If anyone has any hill country stuff tabbed out, I'd love to see it.  I've been watching the R.L. Burnside acoustic videos on YouTube (which are great), and trying to pick up things, but it is SLOW-GOING.

He told a great story when someone asked him about R.L. Burnside.  He said they were touring one time.  He said he usually played first, then Junior Kimbrough, then R.L..  After he finished his set one night R.L. saw some woman talking with him.  The next morning about 5am he gets a phone call and there is a "woman's voice" on the line asking if he still wanted her to come over at 6am?  After about two minutes of "who are you", and "what do you mean 6 o'clock", the "woman" on the line started laughing and it was R.L..

If you haven't seen this guy play, find a way to make it happen.  You won't be disappointed.

Pete

Offline doctorpep

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2008, 07:38:42 PM »
From what I've read of amazon.com and allmusic.com reviews, Belfour's first album is much better than the second one. Is this true? Is he also original in the lyrics department?
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline pbyhre

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2008, 07:51:57 AM »
Personally, I prefer "What's Wrong With You".  As far as lyrics go, looking at the wikipedia page, he is credited with all songs except "Black Mattie" and "Done Got Old" which are credited to Junior Kimbrough.  For me, hill country blues is not about the lyrics, but the driving dark groove of the music.

Pete

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 10:49:36 AM »
Thanks for the report, pbyhre.

I too am a little surprised no one has done a hill country instructional project, given the popularity of R.L. Burnside. One reason (a complete guess here) may be is that it's so distinctive and individual. I was fortunate enough to sit in on an interview with Robert Belfour at Port Townsend a couple years ago. Sitting in a small living room with a few people and listening to him talk about his music and play was pretty powerful, and only drove home the idea that attempting to recreate anything by him would require complete immersion for a long time in that style.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2008, 10:50:38 AM by andrew »

Offline lindy

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2008, 11:53:14 AM »

When you're sitting down with your guitar and trying to figure Belfour out, it really helps to tune way down to where he's playing. In standard tuning he goes way down--JohnM believes he goes all the way down to B on the low E string, I've found him to be closer to C, and he's really not dead-on either one. He also goes down 1.5 steps on his open G tunes, and again, to my ear he's in the vicinity of 1.5 steps, not necessarily dead on. In his own ear, Mr. Belfour knows where his voice sounds best, and tunes his guitar to that sound. You'll have to make some effort to find that spot in order to play along with his CDs, but it's really worth it.

After that, it's fairly easy to figure out a lot of his licks, and that's coming from a person who until recently was heavily dependent on whatever help he could get to figure out tunings and melody notes from recordings. Keep in mind that like many of our heroes, he has song "families," meaning that once you've figured out Black Mattie, you've got the essence of 3-4 of his other songs. The same goes for You Got Me Cryin' and Breakin' My Heart.

Then it's time to repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat and keep repeating 'til you reach some kind of groove. If you ever see him another time in performance, you'll notice that on some songs he closes his eyes, tilts his head upwards, starts to sway, and goes someplace in his head and fingers that I'd sure like to visit sometime.

As for one of his CDs being better than the other, I really resist making those kinds of comparisons because they make no sense. Both CDs contain strong material, both contain songs that belong to the families I mention above, and both have great value. I think it's really possible to do reviews of CDs without making judgments of better-than / worse-than, while still expressing your enthusiasm for the artist or disappointment with an individual track.

Go ahead, pbyhre, try it without tab or DVD, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how far you get without those tools. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat . . .

Lindy


Offline Slack

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2008, 12:06:29 PM »
Jerry Ricks could do that Hill Country groove and he tried to teach it to a bunch of us -- but I don't think anyone quite got it.  That strong sense of rhythm might takes years to get.  Belfour is great and I agree with Pete - I like "What's Wrong with You" better than his first album... it is more varied.... but the first has some jewels, well worth buying both.

Offline pbyhre

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2008, 08:48:24 AM »
Thanks Lindy, that's good advice.  I did notice him go into that far away place during his performance.  It would be fun to be so in-touch with the guitar to be able to do that, instead of taking every ounce of mental ability just to try and keep the fingers going where they are supposed to go...not to mention trying to sing at the same time!  The toughest part for me has been figuring out basic riffs.  I have not yet tried any of the available software tools to slow down tracks.  I think I'll give some of them a try.

I also cringed a little bit when it came to responding to "which is the best cd", which is why I prefaced my comment with "Personally".  However, I figure if I was going to go plop down the $$$ for the CD, I'd rather start with "What's Wrong With You".


Andrew,
I agree that this is a funky type of music to try and master.  I've been taking lessons from Mary Flower, who I think we could all agree is pretty darned good at playing the guitar.  I showed her R.L. Burnside's acoustic version of Long Haired Doney on youtube, and she said that it was a pretty difficult.  Not technically that difficult, but the loose structure of the playing made it difficult to reproduce.  I doubt that I will ever be able to "master" anything on this wonderfully frustrating instrument, but I do enjoy it when I coax something coherent out of it.


Slack,
Belfour said that he started playing when he was seven, which has given him 61 years to get that rhythm down.  So by the time I'm 106, I should be right at the same level ;)

Pete

Offline TJ

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Re: Robert Belfour at Waterfront Blues Fest
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2008, 10:54:07 AM »
Yeah, I caught him play too and it was great! I was working at the CBA booth for the 2 hours before that, so when I was done, I jetted over to the A&E stage to catch Robert. Best I've heard him (yet)! I didn't expect to get good seats and it turned out I was sitting in the very last row. I could see him well until this huge guy sat in front of me and I couldn't see Robert anymore. So I got up and went closer to the stage.  It sounded pretty good considering that he'd never played with that drummer before and it completely appeared as if Robert forgot the drummer's name at the end! I wonder how he sounds with a bass player live. Hmm... 

 


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