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Well I got a woman mean as she can be. Sometimes I think she's almost mean as me - Roy Orbison, Mean Woman Blues, written by Claude Demetrius

Author Topic: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace  (Read 1616 times)

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Offline Slack

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Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« on: November 17, 2011, 06:24:03 PM »
Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
Written by John Miller

Babe Stovall-The Old Ace Arcola Records A CD 1005

This CD offers 13 songs by, and three brief interviews with, Babe Stovall, a Mississippi-born New Orleans street musician, recorded by Arcola Records founder Bob West in July of 1968.  David Evans's informative liner notes tell us that  Babe was born on October 4, 1907 near Tylertown, Mississippi, approximately 100 miles North of New Orleans, in a part of the state that the blues had not really reached at that time.  Partially as a result of his birthplace, Babe's repertoire tended toward a lot of cut-time pre-Blues material of a type one would not normally associate with a Mississippi player, with a predilection for playing in C and G in standard tuning rather than the Spanish and E standard tunings that you might expect from a delta musician of that era. 
  Babe was also certainly not averse to picking up songs from recordings or wherever else he might hear them.  In the three or four years prior to these recordings being made, Babe had done a bit of touring in the U.S., playing in Boston, New York, Southern California and San Francisco, being taken on his tours by a young musician, Mark Ryan, who had discovered Babe playing in New Orleans and had been impressed by his music.  Babe passed away on September 21, 1974.

  What of Babe's music, then?  He was what could fairly be called a "rough" singer, with a good bit of phlegm in his throat, and a grunty "pushed" sound that must have helped his voice project on the street.  His vocal sound was not what you would call euphonious, but he had a lot of character in his voice, and you definitely get a strong sense of his personality from his singing.  His guitar-playing, recorded here on a National steel-bodied guitar, featured some really nice two-finger picking with thumb and index finger, and you encounter nifty and individualistic touches in his playing virtually everywhere you look.
   The program on this CD has a nice variety.  It opens with "Good Morning Blues", Babe's take on Kokomo Arnold's "Milk Cow Blues", performed in A, standard tuning and incorporating some Lemon Jefferson licks for good measure.  "Candy Man", performed in C standard in the same song family as Rev. Davis's version, follows next.  "Going Away To Wear You Off My Mind", played in G standard, is next, and it is a particularly strong cut, with an abundance of ideas and variations in Babe's guitar part.  Something about Babe's time and phrasing on it reminded me a bit of another great New Orleans player of an earlier era:  Papa Charlie Jackson.  "The Ship Is At The Landing" is a really nice religious number, on which Babe delivers one of his strongest vocals.  "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" was learned by Babe from a Bob Dylan recording he heard in one of the Hippie apartments he stayed in while on tour, and Babe played it in G standard as did Bob.  "Worried Blues" is a catchy little tune in C standard with a moving line on the third string that has something of the pre-Blues sound of Henry Thomas.  "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", which Babe either learned or was reminded of by a recording by Ramblin' Jack Elliott according to the album notes, features some of his most exuberant and least appealing singing.
  Babe's version of the Leroy Carr classic, "How Long, How Long Blues" is really excellent.  Played in G standard, he takes a different approach to the song than any I've heard before, and plays response lines to the vocal lines as he goes, to great effect.  "Dirty Mistreater" is played out of Dropped D and employs the basic accompaniment approach that Tommy Johnson (whom Babe met) employed on "Big Road Blues".  "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" is done in a surprising up-tempo version.  "God's Word Shall Never Pass Away" is done capoed up in a C position and sung right at the top of Babe's vocal range.  Babe's version of "Kansas City Blues", played in C standard, is an especially good one, with some echoes of "Hesitation Blues" in its phrasing and accompaniment, and his medley of "Big Road Blues" and "Careless Love" employs the same Dropped D accompaniment as his version of "Dirty Mistreater".  The program concludes with a couple of interviews Bob West conducted with Babe, and as is so often the case with such interviews, the additional insight you get into who Babe was and how he lived his life make their inclusion in the program very welcome.

  The more I listened to this CD, the more I found I enjoyed it.  Babe's vocal and instrumental skills were not of the type to dazzle you, but he was, in fact, a strong and distinctive player and singer, and I think a closer attention to Babe's performances and material here could yield some really valuable repertoire-building from one of the distinctive musicians and personalities who continued to play this music on up into the 1970s.  A very nice recording and congratulations to Arcola Records for this release and entering the field of Country Blues recording labels.  {mos_smf_discuss:Reviews}
 
PROGRAM:  Good Morning Blues; Candy Man; Going Away To Wear You Off My Mind; The Ship is at the Landing; Baby Let Me Follow You Down; Worried Blues; Will The Circle Be Unbroken?; How Long How Long Blues; Dirty Mistreater; Good Morning Little Schoolgirl; God's Word Shall Never Pass Away; Kansas City Blues; Medley:  Big Road Blues and Careless Love; Interview 1:  Family; Interview 2:  Playing in New Orleans
« Last Edit: December 13, 2014, 08:30:06 AM by Slack »

Offline RobBob

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2011, 07:36:51 PM »
While serving in the USAF on Gulf Coast in 1969, I met Babe.  He was not in good shape anymore but he had some good songs and you could hear the remnants of his style.  He was a lot of fun until he drank too much and then he became somewhat incoherent.  He sold me a Verve LP back then but it was warped and never played very well.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2011, 01:19:15 AM »
While serving in the USAF on Gulf Coast in 1969, I met Babe.  He was not in good shape anymore but he had some good songs and you could hear the remnants of his style.  He was a lot of fun until he drank too much and then he became somewhat incoherent.  He sold me a Verve LP back then but it was warped and never played very well.
In the 70s that LP was commanding serious sums of money at auction due to its rarity. I don't think it's ever been reissued.

Stefan has a really good Stovall discography http://www.wirz.de/music/stovafrm.htm with several nice photos and along with ancient reading matter.

Offline mr mando

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2011, 02:18:04 AM »
I don't think it's ever been reissued.

Probably not the whole LP, but I believe the 1990 Babe Stovall CD on Flyright 625 with liner notes by my friend Mojo Kilian includes at least half of the Verve LP titles.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2011, 03:19:49 AM »
Probably not the whole LP, but I believe the 1990 Babe Stovall CD on Flyright 625 with liner notes by my friend Mojo Kilian includes at least half of the Verve LP titles.
Fool that I am I have the LP but I don't ever recall a CD - Stefan's discography doesn't list one. If there was a CD let Stefan know and I'm sure he'll add it.

Offline mr mando

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2011, 07:03:28 AM »
I think the CD is in there already on position no. 10 of the discography.

Offline Stefan Wirz

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2011, 09:34:32 AM »
AFAIK, Flyright FLY 625 (an LP) never came out as CD !

Offline mr mando

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2011, 01:12:34 AM »
AFAIK, Flyright FLY 625 (an LP) never came out as CD !

Oops!! My CD-R copy must be a vinyl rip then.

Offline rickerw

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 05:37:41 PM »
Mark Ryan was a friend and classmate at Brown University. He brought Babe there and arranged some gigs for him. I think he stayed in his dorm room! There was a little venue on Thayer Street where some of the guys could be heard occasionally, heard by a very small audience. I heard Sleepy John Estes there and John Hurt. This was about 1964. We were playing and singing in the big tiled showers because of the great bouncing sound.... Ricker

Online Johnm

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Re: Babe Stovall-The Old Ace
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2013, 06:30:15 PM »
It's great to see you here, Ricker, welcome!
All best,
Johnm

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