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Author Topic: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...  (Read 6854 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2011, 07:01:31 PM »
I think this thread highlights the fact that you have to get them all, there is no definitive release or even couple of releases that has the full representation or best remastering. I like all the BWMcT CDs I own, which is most of them. To put it another way I never heard a BWMcT CD I didn't like.

I had high hopes for the remastering on the recent Yazoo McTell and it is really good but not exponentially better, unlike the recentish Yazoo Lemon which is a masterpiece, IMO, please do more.

He recorded a lot and I like every period. I play Last Sessions when it suits my mood, and likewise the early stuff, or Atlanta 12 String, or the Lomax stuff, when it suits my other moods. I love all of it. Actually I probably play Last Sessions most of all, for the narrative and pathos implied by the back story (read the liner notes). I hope to be that good when I have to busk outside a Piggly Wiggly in my old age. Must be getting sentimental in my late middle age.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2011, 08:02:47 PM by Rivers »

Offline RobBob

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #31 on: January 15, 2011, 07:38:18 PM »
Rivers,

I have been in front of some Piggly Wigglys lately that I wouldn't recommend standing in front much less busking.  But that is downstate SC for you.

Blind Willie was amazing, I really love his slide 12 string.  Back in high school we thought slide 12 was the height of self abuse.  ON a 60's Stella it was a challenge getting and keeping it in tune.  But what a sound when it is and Blind Willie had the touch.

As for back stories, it still pretty much sucks to be a black man in the south.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #32 on: January 18, 2011, 08:17:04 PM »
Willie had such a voice, I never tire of listening to him sing, all eras, not to mention his taste in the guitar phrasing. BWM is my favorite vocalist by a long way.

Slide 12 on an old Stella the height of self abuse? Heh, I should be so lucky. I've pretty much given up looking for the perfect old ladder-braced 12 string. Or even a restoration job, they just never seem to come up for sale.

Offline LB

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #33 on: January 21, 2011, 07:24:57 AM »
I've got the same model McTell is shown in 1939 photo. It's the model thats actually a Harmony Roy Smeck Pro series and about the nicest one I've ever seen. Thinking about selling it to fund the building of another 20s Stella style. My friend has a 12 string that IS one of the actual models he played in the 20s and shown on older covers. It's semi-baritone and all hardwood, big brown beast with a giant neck but good GOD it sounds amazing and exactly like the old recordings. The guitars McTell was said to have owned around the last recordings might have been the more 50s models which I've owned and they are a far far cry from the older ones. My opinion of McTell's voice is unique and a stand out. That is perhaps one reason to choose him as a favorite but I love way too many other vocalists equally from that era.

I've always thought the double sets of strings on a 12 make it the ultimate slide machine because the slide floats so nicely on top of those unwound strings. The BIGGEST problem with 12 string players is they try to be virtuosos when the trick to a 12 string is playing way way LESS and more simple note runs, bass runs. I hear many players with all these reissues online demonstrating and they just hit my ear like a wall of over sustaining muddy mess of notes. I think there is a true art to playing these. And I also get a little bugged when I hear a lot of players over time insult McTell and the 12. One of the musicians I respect the most in this world just HATES it and says McTell would have been much better, more clear and easier to hear his artistry if he'd not cursed himself with that 12 string. I could not disagree more. The high voice, humor, and the low 12 was what made McTell in my opinion. I think with a 6 string he would have just been lost in history.

I also think he was amazing when Weaver was playing and singing with him. But I'm wandering off topic, sorry about that.


Oh here's my 12 string - Late 1930s Roy Smeck Pro 12 by Harmony I originally bought from Neil Harpe.


« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 07:27:10 AM by LittleBrother »

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #34 on: January 22, 2011, 09:07:12 AM »
Well said, Little Brother.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline RobBob

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #35 on: January 25, 2011, 11:46:12 AM »
Slide 12 on an old Stella the height of self abuse? Heh, I should be so lucky. I've pretty much given up looking for the perfect old ladder-braced 12 string. Or even a restoration job, they just never seem to come up for sale.

Just getting those later ones to stay in tune while the neck slowly bowed.  That's all I was thinking of.

Offline LeftyStrat

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #36 on: November 24, 2014, 04:24:56 PM »
Finding it hard to believe that it's been nearly 4 years since I posed the original question that started this thread....Tempus Fugit!

I've been on a serious Blind Willie McTell kick lately and I recently picked up the JSP set as a substitute for the 2nd and 3rd Document CDs  (the Document set was out of stock and my patience got the better of me), and after doing so I was reminded of the suggestion made by several folks throughout this thread to "Get it All" when it comes to which of Blind Willie's recordings to purchase.

Now, as it stands, I have:
The equivalent of the 3 Document CDs
The Library of Congress Recordings   
Atlanta 12-String
Last Sessions

I know there's a Document disc released of McTell and Weaver, and the CD titled "Pig 'n Whistle Red" out there, but my question is:

Is there anything else out there that's not a repetition of those 8 discs that I should be aware of, should I decide to follow through on my completionist impulses and follow through with the advice to "Get it All?"

It may take another 4 years or longer for me to get there, but...I'm trying :)
Stop by and give a listen! :)

http://www.facebook.com/leftystratblues

Offline banjochris

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #37 on: November 24, 2014, 04:30:57 PM »
All you need now is the post-war Document CD, plus a couple stray tracks on John Tefteller's calendar CD's:
http://www.document-records.com/fulldetails.asp?ProdID=BDCD-6014

http://bluesimages.com/html/product_html/order_cd_vol_5_new.html

That should complete the collection, I do believe.
Chris

Offline Bed Bug Bill

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #38 on: March 29, 2015, 07:26:29 AM »
Any and All.
The library of Congress Recordings by Lomax have to be up there,close to the top,of everyone's country blues list.

Offline EddieD

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #39 on: March 29, 2015, 05:31:29 PM »
Quote
Hi all,
I'm a little late to the game, but I would concur with O'Muck, on selecting the Yazoo Vol. 1.  Willie McTell is one of the only Country Blues musicians whose singing I like less and less as he grew older.  Normally I much prefer the singing of older musicians to their singing as young people.
All best,
Johnm

Interesting point John and one I hadn't been consciously aware of. But yes the vocal quality on his early sides is really spectacular, haunting, and unique and it doesn't improve with age. There is something about the song choices on that first volume Yazoo (The Early Years) and the way they build a coherent picture that is rare with this music I think. It really works as a start to finish listening experience..an album in the best sense. Maybe even a desert island album.

01. Broke Down Engine          
02. Mama, 'Tain't Long Fo' Day          
03. Georgia Rag          
04. Love Changing Blues          
05. Statesboro Blues          
06. Stomp Down Rider         
07. Savannah Mama          
08. Travelin' Blues          
09. Drive Away Blues          
10. Warm It up to Me          
11. Three Women Blues          
12. Writing Paper Blues          
13. Southern Can Is Mine          
14. Talkin' to Myself

Visting the Yazoo site I'm not finding it listed anymore so good luck

I just bought this LP a week or two ago. It's was new not used. It instantly became one of my favorite albums.

As for the original post I love the Atlanta 12 String album. It was the first I heard followed by the LoC album. Great place to start but I'm hooked on his early recordings now.

Offline iwbiek

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #40 on: April 03, 2015, 07:32:41 AM »
I LOVE BLIND WILLIE!  I have everything from him, some in duplicates (e.g., I have his two Yazoo albums as well as a complete compilation of his early commercial releases on Catfish, which both cover the same material).  I believe JSP has a boxed set of all his early commericial recordings and the Library of Congress recordings--basically everything except his early '40s stuff with Curley Weaver, the Atlantic recordings, and the Last Sesssion--as usual very reasonably priced (JSP is my favorite record company ever).

If, however, you want a single CD and you like your blues raw like I do, I say Last Session all the way, with the Document compilation of Willie and Curley Weaver in a close second.  I don't like the Library of Congress recordings very much, basically because of Alan Lomax.  Yes, I respect Lomax for all he did for American music, but personally he was a condescending prick.

McTell was more of a songster than anything else, and you can tell that when he gets the chance to play what he wants (like on the Last Session), he prefers minstrel show tunes and old Tin Pan Alley numbers, accompanying himself deftly in Piedmont style.  Lomax, however, seemed to think that most black people only ever played 12-bar blues, field hollers, and spirituals, and only knew how to play bottleneck, so it's obvious he's pressuring Willie into those types of numbers, and thus Willie isn't really at his best.  Not surprisingly, the best tracks are the novelty tunes he manages to squeeze in ("Baby, It Must Be Love," "Kill It, Kid," which are both also on the Last Session).  Also, the way Lomax asks leading questions until he gets the answers he wants is really annoying.  You can tell Willie is just acting out the part he knows is expected of him, but his irritation almost breaks the surface sometimes.  Here's an example (as verbatim as I can remember it):

LOMAX (asking the same question for the second or third time): Willie, don't you know any complainin' songs at all?  "Ain't It Hard to Be a Nigger, Nigger"?

MCTELL (with a slight WTF!? chuckle in his voice): That's not...in our time.

In my opinion, Lomax should have promoted Willie the way he promoted Lead Belly.  Willie was clearly a superior musician and showman, but you can tell from the 1941 recordings that he's not interested in taking Lomax's crap, despite being deferential on the surface.  It's also rumored he was offended by the paltry sum Lomax paid him, as he thought he was recording commercially (and I doubt Lomax did anything to disabuse him of that impression).  I guess Lead Belly was more accomodating.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 07:40:33 AM by iwbiek »

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #41 on: April 03, 2015, 08:04:28 AM »
Buy everything You can by Willie.He was a genius.I disagree with iebiek and his opinion of the LOC sessions,they are fabulous and offer an insight into Willie`s wide repertoire.Willie sounds great and I`m glad he was"pressurised"into recording bottleneck by Lomax because these recordings contain some absolutely beautiful and delicate slide,some of Willie`s best.
        As for Lomaxes attitude to Willie,I thinks it`s useful to read M.Grays biography.We are hearing an edited version of the tapes. Apparently the unedited version shows Lomax in a better light.Things often being out of context on the edited version we hear.
        As for Leadbelly/Lomax.Leadbelly and Lomax fell out big time and legal action was taken by Leadbelly.I guess he wasn`t that accommodating.
       
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 08:25:13 AM by Lyndvs »

Offline iwbiek

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #42 on: April 03, 2015, 08:36:14 AM »
Don't get me wrong, the LOC sessions are hardly junk.  They're just my least favorite of the whole bunch.  Where can I get the unedited version?

FWIW, I'm not basing my opinion of Lomax just on those sessions.  As much as I loved it for its historical value, I cringed on pretty much every page of "The Land Where the Blues Began" because of Lomax's ignorant and asinine comments.  As a rural Southerner myself, it's clear to me at times that Lomax's subjects are putting one over on him and he's eating it up.  I especially love where Son House and co. start shushing him when the police show up because his loud-mouthed, rich white boy enthusiasm is about to get them arrested.  Over the years, I've read about a few encounters other people in the recording business had with Lomax and usually they weren't flattering.  Moe Asch seemed to have had a particularly low opinion of him, especially of his treatment of Lead Belly (making him play in convict's clothes, etc.).  It doesn't detract from his enormous accomplishments of course, but I just have a hard time listening to him.

I don't recall anything Willie did for the LOC he didn't do commercially, including bottleneck and sacred songs.  He played slide on pretty much all of his commercial sessions.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 08:38:17 AM by iwbiek »

Offline dj

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #43 on: April 03, 2015, 10:10:04 AM »
Just to set the record straight, it was John Lomax, Alan's father, who recorded Willie McTell for the Library of Congress in 1940.

As for Lomax pushing McTell to record certain types of material, he did nothing there that any other recording director/A&R person would have done.  And in fact did do to Willie McTell.  If you look at McTell's pre-war commercial recordings, you can see that Victor was interested in having him record straight blues, Columbia/Okeh/Vocalion got him to record raggy stuff as well as blues, and Decca pushed him to record religious titles.  We have no idea what McTell would have recorded if he'd been able to record anything he wanted. 

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Trying to decide which Willie McTell CDs to buy...
« Reply #44 on: April 03, 2015, 11:21:56 AM »
iwbiek.Yes it was John Lomax not Alan that recorded Willie.
From reading M.Grays book I don`t believe the unedited LOC sessions have been commercially released.I f i remember correctly Gray says in the book that there were plans for an extensive boxset featuring the unedited version but it`s not happened.This is all from memory so check out the book if you`re interested in Willie`s story.I`d also recommend reading"the life and legend of leadbelly" to get the full story of Leadbelly`s relationship with the Lomaxes.Plus give Lead a listen He`s a different musician to Willie but not an inferior one by any means.
I agree with dj`s comments regarding Willie being pushed by Lomax into recording certain types of material.John Lomaxes fields recordings show a massive spectrum of pre war american music.I`m sure he was aware of what  a black musician could play and of many varying guitar styles-not just bottleneck.
     Yes,i am aware that Willie recorded slide and religious songs commercially.That is why I said the slide pieces recorded for the LOC were SOME of Willies greatest.If they were recorded because of "pressure" from John Lomax(which I very much doubt)then god bless him.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 11:33:42 AM by Lyndvs »

 


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