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He'll fix you up a drink, just won't quit, it'll make you fight a circle saw, make you slap the lady down, and make you pick a fight with your pa - Jim Jackson, Bootlegging Blues

Author Topic: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson  (Read 2198 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 07:40:29 PM »
I'm not sure I get this. Many if not all of these people are millionaires. Why can't they fund their own damn record? Or their labels?

And say all their money is tied up in, um, South American business endeavours -- they need $125,000 to produce a record? Most kickstarter CD projects I've seen from independent musicians are rather more modest, to put it politely.

Gimme a break.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2013, 08:17:08 PM »
If they are so sincere in their love for BWJ, they can record themselves and post their music for free on DeltaSlider like Ragtime Ralph/Blind Brand X does, or on some other download for free site, or as homemade vids on YT, for that matter. Spare me. Sounds like a make work project for the well-to-do--with a bunch of less fortunates picking up the tab in return for trinkets (that they paid for anyway).

« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 08:20:52 PM by Stuart »

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2013, 08:21:23 PM »
Unca Bud,
Millionaires or not, these artists seem strange choices. Now I like Ricky Jones---her pseudo-jazz, stoned delivery is quite charming really---but i can't hear her bringing anything much to "Run to the City of Refuge" for instance.
And the blooze-rockers? Well....

But if you haven't already, watch the video pitch by the producer. Maybe we can have a betting pool on who can get an accurate count of the exaggerations, half-truths and lies.

[I do want a cigar-box guitar made from wood from BWJ's house though.]
Wow!
bruce
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 08:38:31 PM by bnemerov »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 09:17:21 PM »
If you had to provide an illustration of the correct usage of the word 'crass' a link to that site would more than suffice. I am shaking my head in disbelief.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 11:20:10 PM »
Unca Bud,
Millionaires or not, these artists seem strange choices. Now I like Ricky Jones---her pseudo-jazz, stoned delivery is quite charming really---but i can't hear her bringing anything much to "Run to the City of Refuge" for instance.
And the blooze-rockers? Well....

Uh-huh, I like several of these artists, but doing their own thing, not asking for $125,000 to do pop/rock versions of Blind Willie Johnson. ("You know what Dark Was the Night really needs? Words." It's like a lost scene from Spinal Tap.)

Yeah, I know Lucinda W. has played a bunch of country blues tunes and Luther D. certainly has CB cred, but this project still smacks of music biz bullshit.

Online Norfolk Slim

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 12:45:44 AM »
This looks fantastic. Wooden picks made from blind Willie's shack!  Perhaps if we all contribute enough they will also dig him up and make slides from his bones.

If someone is willing to pay me a few grand, I'm also prepared to 'reveal' two extra verses to a Robert Johnson song of your choice.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Xparent BlueTapatalk 2


Offline slideaway

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 03:26:16 AM »
Perhaps if we all contribute enough they will also dig him up and make slides from his bones.

LMAO!!  :)

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 03:30:32 AM »
Norfolk Slim---
You started my day with a laugh---thank you!
best,
bruce

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2013, 04:53:19 AM »
I like the project for a couple of reasons. The first is that it encourages and develops by example seeking crowd funding as way of raising money for musical projects.  I think the artists participating are sincere artists and their versions will be great. And originally I thought they took boards from the existing burnt house, but since its been demolished I think that what they've done with it is a better alternative to it disappearing altogether. The kind of fancy designer packaging that they are doing in the outreach, if they offer it that way I think it gives it a better chance for reaching a wider audience, a little pop so to speak because its unusual. It also makes the product eligible for design awards which would get it in front of people that might not know of Johnson's music. Lastly, I believe that Johnson's music is treated with respect and the only person going to be doing his version is Johnson himself and that's been included.

comment 4 days later: What was I thinking?! :(
« Last Edit: October 21, 2013, 03:10:51 PM by harriet »

Online Norfolk Slim

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2013, 05:05:09 AM »
Ive not watched the video, but presumably this is a commercial project rather than an altruistic one.  Is the $65,000 allocated to "recording mixing and mastering" is paying fees to artists?  It certainly doesnt cost that much to record a dozen tracks in a studio and master them!

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2013, 05:31:29 AM »
Ive not watched the video, but presumably this is a commercial project rather than an altruistic one.  Is the $65,000 allocated to "recording mixing and mastering" is paying fees to artists?  It certainly doesnt cost that much to record a dozen tracks in a studio and master them!

I for one, am certainly not opposed to musicians getting paid if that's any of the usage there, or if any of it is going to defray travel, hotel arrangements for them.

Or pay factored in for Tom Feldmann for his demos and String Tinkers for their cigar box construction.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 06:25:34 PM by harriet »

Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2013, 05:57:56 AM »
Ok... so where's the kickstarter to stop Derrek Trucks from recording my favourite song?
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline jrn

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2013, 06:59:01 AM »
THE ALBUM ONLY HAPPENS IF FANS FUND IT.

I like that part. If it doesn't happen then its all our fault. Gimme a break! Tom Waits and Sinead O'connor? But not Ry Cooder?  Was Miley Cyrus not available to twerk to Nobodys Fault but Mine?

The artist lineup is lame.
Quitman, Mississippi

Online Norfolk Slim

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2013, 07:08:05 AM »
Almost an interesting thread in itself though- which artists would you actively like to be nivolved in a BWJ tribute?

I'd like to hear David Jacobs-Strain do it.  He's gone a bit poppy and commercial now, but his early stuff displayed wonderfully haunting and raspy BWJesque slide playing. 

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2013, 08:37:27 AM »
Well then one idea would be that cb players who have their own common vision might get together amongst themselves - get a response compilation together and time it to coincide, publicize it as a response and use the outreach of the kickstarter project in some way to draw attention to the cb effort and bring attention to the cb artists involved.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2013, 09:33:38 AM by harriet »

Offline CF

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2013, 09:04:18 AM »
Not a bad idea but I think when it comes to the music of Blind willie Johnson I'll stick with listening to Blind Willie Johnson.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2013, 10:44:02 AM »
Dark was the night, and cold the ground
On which the Lord was laid;
His sweat like drops of blood ran down;
In agony he prayed.

"Father, remove this bitter cup,
If such Thy sacred will;
If not, content to drink it up
Thy pleasure I fulfill."
   
Go to the garden, sinner, see
Those precious drops that flow;
The heavy load He bore for thee;
For thee he lies so low.

Then learn of Him the cross to bear;
Thy Father's will obey;
And when temptations press thee near,
Awake to watch and pray.

I hate to be negative ;)but these celebrity affairs don`t appeal to me.

Offline -

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2013, 11:10:12 AM »
These types of tributes rarely appeal to the fans of the artist covered and are meant to appeal to the fans of the artists featured, bringing the music to a "new" audience.  I'm not exactly on board with the artists chosen either but Jeff, the producer, is pulling from the musical contacts he has and I think it's great that he's doing it.  Certainly new people will seek out the original recordings after hearing an artist they like doing their version.

I was involved slightly, doing the CBG guitar demos, but I did not receive any payment nor will I receive any payment from the kickstarter campaign or CD sales.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2013, 01:46:35 PM »
Thanks for the post, Tom. However, there's something about it that still rubs me the wrong way. Essentially, what he's after is investors (backers), and both the dollar amount and the lack of a return on the investment (other than the trinkets)--and a lack of transparency--bothers me. I want to see details. Some of these projects really are labors of love--and I've supported a few, but this one just doesn't pass the stink test.

I agree that new people will probably seek out the original BWJ recordings, but how many and who are they? These are questions that no one can answer as it is pure speculation. It may not all be about money, but 125K is money--other people's money--in this case.

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2013, 02:09:17 PM »
I liked that they made the effort to salvage a little of the demolished home, for posterity and are trying to make them into objects that people would want to keep. If the house had not been demolished I would have had very strong feelings as otherwise.

The main thing I don't like and am very much opposed to is they registered and are using his name blindwilliejohnson.com for the project, as that is not Blind Willie Johnson!
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 06:24:39 PM by harriet »

Offline -

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2013, 02:12:03 PM »
I can't speak on the integrity of the parties involved, as I don't know them personally, but what's the difference between a kickstarter program and PBS, NPR, etc., seeking public contributions to pay for programs that the "member" will not benefit financially from. 

Offline Stuart

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2013, 03:46:28 PM »
I'm not questioning anyone's integrity, Tom. Please note that the contributions are private, not public. The differences are of scale and details--specifics. NPR and PBS are non-profit organizations subject to audit.

As you  say, on one level they are the same, but I'm not talking about that level. Not all Kickstarter projects are the same. Many worthy projects and organizations seek financial contributions with no expectation of a financial return, such as many of our privately funded public universities. But there is a commercial aspect of this project that I'm uncomfortable with. Let it go at that.

Offline wreid75

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2013, 08:25:41 PM »
I am suspicious of the CBG made from the wood from his house.  I would have to have some serious evidence that supported this.  His house burned down  in 1945.  How did the wood survive?  Is it a small piece of wood making the bridge or a big piece of wood?  Also the wood on those CBGs looked awfully new for something that is 68 year old burned up home.  If it can be validated beyond all doubt it might be worth donating just to get the guitar, other wise let them pay for it their own damn self.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2013, 08:45:02 PM »
Hi Lyndvs - I know the hymn exists. My point was Blind Willie Johnson's performance obviously doesn't use them, and doesn't need them.

Harriet, I am not sure how this will serve as an example of crowdfunding that can encourage more such funding of musical projects. I have seen many examples of musicians using Kickstarter and other such sites to raise funds for musical projects: CDs, film projects, a folk festival, tours etc. I don't know that they need to be shown the potential. Perhaps donors do, and if a project like this encouraged people to support projects other than this, that would be nice, but at $125,000, it immediately makes me feel cynical, not supportive.

At the bottom of that kickstarter page, I got links to other kickstarter musical projects. I suspect these are just the pages I've looked at before and aren't the same for others, but one is a CD of old-time songs by Martha Burns, with a goal of $6,500 (achieved) and the Brooklyn Folk Festival with a goal of $5,000 (achieved). No zeros missing there.

I know that the session/band musicians that come with artists like Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Sinead O'Connor et al don't come cheap, but it seems that this is therefore something for a record company to fund. I think musicians, designers and producers working on projects with artists of this level of success should be paid well too, but if such a project costs this much, then again, let a record company do it.

I don't see crowdfunding for people who have achieved this level of success in the music business as a positive development. I see it more as an encroachment, muscling in on funding sources and models for independent musicians who really do need the crowdfunding model to realize their own projects. What's next a crowdfunded Jerry Bruckheimer movie?

If the argument is that record companies won't fund such projects anymore, then let the funding model reflect a real independent project, not one based on an inflated music biz economic model. $125,000 for a CD. Like I said at the beginning, gimme a break.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2013, 08:55:21 PM by uncle bud »

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2013, 01:00:30 AM »
Hi Lyndvs - I know the hymn exists. My point was Blind Willie Johnson's performance obviously doesn't use them, and doesn't need them."

Unclebud,I`m in total agreement,Blind Willie`s performance is transcendental.Just thought I`d post them,some people may not be aware of the lyrics(and it saves Ricki lee Jones the effort of"revealing" the words  :D).For instance many people aren`t aware that there are  lyrics to "Mississippi Blues" by William Brown!(sad but true,a quick browse over at the woodshed will confirm this.).
         I pretty much agree with your thoughts on the whole thing.If I have spare cash I`d much rather donate it to some good causes/charity who would make better use of it.

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2013, 05:35:13 AM »
Harriet, I am not sure how this will serve as an example of crowdfunding that can encourage more such funding of musical projects. I have seen many examples of musicians using Kickstarter and other such sites to raise funds for musical projects: CDs, film projects, a folk festival, tours etc. I don't know that they need to be shown the potential. Perhaps donors do, and if a project like this encouraged people to support projects other than this, that would be nice, but at $125,000, it immediately makes me feel cynical, not supportive.

Donors. I would hope it would make it attractive to support other country blues projects, ones including and recognizing dedicated country blues musicians.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 05:24:34 PM by harriet »

Offline -

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #27 on: October 17, 2013, 06:51:36 AM »
For the modern world $125,000 is about right to produce and promote a project properly involving these big name artists.


Offline Stuart

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #28 on: October 17, 2013, 10:02:07 AM »
Except that 25.97% goes to Reward Manufacturing and 9.09% goes to Kickstarter and credit card fees. That's $43,825 of the $125K budget. Do the math, my friend, and then stop and think about what's really going on here as well as about less costly alternatives about how to get the word out about BWJ. For example, all of the artists named could record a BWJ song and include it on their next album, with some info about BWJ in the liner notes as well as suggestions for further listening.

Joe Stiglitz has an expression that he often uses (I paraphrase): "It's how they get the money from the bottom up to the top."

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #29 on: October 17, 2013, 02:01:02 PM »
Hi all,
I've been following this discussion with interest. It raises many points for consideration. One that got me thinking was Harriet's comment about supporting such projects as this one:
 "Donors. I would hope it would make it attractive to support other country blues projects, ones including and recognizing dedicated country blues musicians."

I'm not sure how this project helps Willie Johnson. I see nothing allocated in the budget for royalties to his estate or heirs. When we were structuring the John Hurt "Discovery" project a good chunk went to pay mechanical royalties for Hurt"s songs and both his and Tom Hoskins' estates get sales royalties.

Johnson's music is probably not under a proper copyright like Hurt's is, so I'm not saying the producer is acting in an illegal manner, but he is, it seems to me anyway, using Johnson's artistic credibility to primarily further his own interests. That  the selection of proposed performers was determined by whom the producer could easily contact only supports this view. Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, and many others who also have "names" would be artistically better choices, as has been pointed out. But I know from personal experience that it's hard to get Cooder to return a phone call.


I'm skeptical that this project is going to cause a groundswell of interest in Johnson's records. Be great if it did, though the only beneficiary would be Sony Music. And, Harriet, I'm afraid it might have the opposite effect: turn so many people off that, as has also been noted, when someone suitable who needs this type of funding proposes a project, the money won't be forthcoming.

Sorry to sound so cynical, but I've been involved in this stuff for a long time and whenever someone says their main interest is in "honoring" a deceased musician, I have to raise an eyebrow (or two).

best,
bruce


Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #30 on: October 17, 2013, 02:55:30 PM »
Except that 25.97% goes to Reward Manufacturing and 9.09% goes to Kickstarter and credit card fees. That's $43,825 of the $125K budget.
I'll leave most of my pro project comments up but actually I don't know how I overlooked it, but Stuart's post definitely made me rethink my enthusiasm for the project. Between that "reward manufacturing" expense and the use of the name blindwilliejohnson.com for the project, kind of damped my enthusiasm. For the record, I edited out earlier remarks about pledging a small amount since I cancelled it and remarks suggesting people who performed BWJ contacting the producer. Phffft.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 06:32:11 PM by harriet »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #31 on: October 17, 2013, 05:15:17 PM »
I just took another look at the website thinking I was being too harsh.

Somebody tell me it's just a bad dream, or maybe a prank by the Onion. If so it's the funniest thing they've ever done.

"100 Guitar Picks Made of Wood From Blind Willie Johnson's 1930's Home". Now that will really help you play like Willie Johnson...

Good grief.

Offline JohnLeePimp

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #32 on: October 17, 2013, 06:50:39 PM »
"Scraps of wood from the house became collectible, as did even the Stovall dirt on which it sat. When the House of Blues opened its new club in Chicago, it placed an order with me for 25 pounds of dirt from Muddy Waters's yard. It was absurd, of course, but I dug it up and sent it. I needed the 50 bucks it was offering..."

Jim O'Neal, The Voice of the Blues 
...so blue I shade a part of this town.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #33 on: October 17, 2013, 07:50:05 PM »
Tom, I have no doubt that it's very easy to spend 125K in "the modern world" making a record, and if they tried just a little harder I bet they could double that. With the approx. 9% going to credit card companies and kickstarter, plus another 8 or 9% to lawyers who will be making sure Sony and the gang get all the money they are "due", that's nearly a fifth of the project already. I hope would-be contributors look at those numbers.

It's just pretty hard to reconcile this tribute to a blind street musician who had a cup for spare change wired to his guitar with those numbers for me. Especially when none of it seems to be going to any kind of tangible tribute, be it support for some historical recognition project, support for an educational music program or whatever. And especially when they are asking the public to subsidize it. Let the millionaires, lawyers and media companies who will benefit subsidize it.

I think Bruce has it right, this smacks of self-promotion more than anything else. Sounds like they're going for another Grammy nomination, and the Grammy folks can go, "ooh look, something for the traditional music category with names that people will finally fucking recognize! Halle-freakin-lujah!"

As for spreading the word about Blind Willie Johnson, I am very doubtful about that. And if that's a goal then they've probably gone with the wrong demographic, since all of these musicians appeal to middle-aged farts, few of whom will be looking for something like the original Blind Willie if they are not already into the genre. The most active interest in this music beyond the core of rapidly aging usual suspects that I see is in young people and (sorry) hipsters who are starting jug bands, picking up old guitars, playing fiddles and banjos, buying them newfangled vinyl record reissues etc. Perhaps better to have Jack whatsisname organize a tribute.

Offline harriet

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #34 on: October 18, 2013, 05:24:04 AM »
I think Bruce has it right, this smacks of self-promotion more than anything else. Sounds like they're going for another Grammy nomination, and the Grammy folks can go, "ooh look, something for the traditional music category with names that people will finally fucking recognize! Halle-freakin-lujah!"

As for spreading the word about Blind Willie Johnson, I am very doubtful about that. And if that's a goal then they've probably gone with the wrong demographic, since all of these musicians appeal to middle-aged farts, few of whom will be looking for something like the original Blind Willie if they are not already into the genre. The most active interest in this music beyond the core of rapidly aging usual suspects that I see is in young people and (sorry) hipsters who are starting jug bands, picking up old guitars, playing fiddles and banjos, buying them newfangled vinyl record reissues etc. Perhaps better to have Jack whatsisname organize a tribute.

I think that's correct on both parts. Their presentation from the point of view of someone who has never heard Blind Willie Johnson's name at all is so cluttered with other musicians - the cd participants and the demos - and the packaging puts BWJ on the B side of the reward, which speaks for itself . My cousin whom I sent the link to is very busy and she skimmed/or didn't read the blurb and came away with the impression that Tom Feldmann - whom she hadn't heard of either - was Blind Willie.

On the other hand I heard a rumor that if they exceed their goal they might add additional rewards of a newly found autographed picture of him and one inch square of the actually bedding from the house,  which turned up recently, with a numbered certificate of authenicity.

edit: And I certainly they missed an opportunity by not developing a BWJ Commemorative Collection Cup - which they could have used as a prop at the grammys - you know, a group of skimpily dressed dancers choreographed to end the number by circling around the musician performing, dropping to one knee and raising the cups a la Ziegfield Follies. phhht.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 09:04:30 AM by harriet »

Offline frankie

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #35 on: October 18, 2013, 05:54:03 AM »
Tom Feldmann - whom she hadn't heard of either - was Blind Willie

I love the internet!

Offline Kokomo O

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #36 on: October 18, 2013, 02:23:38 PM »
Harriet, you've veered off into the realm of genius with the replica collection cup and the dancers. Can you imagine how much they could raise by selling those authentic replica collection cups, complete with wires to attach to slotted headstocks? They could even have the Gibson Custom Shop or National Reso-Phonic antique the surface, for that battered Texas '20s busker look.

And the sale of the true relic of the bed is too much to be believed as well.

My god, these guys are leaving money on the table.

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2013, 01:01:40 PM »
Has anybody here heard the other album Feldmann produced? The Gospel musicians covering Dylan songs? That might be a (somewhat limited) basis for judging how this could be.
I find some of the musicians to be intriguing, and just about all I think are worthy of respect, so worthy of a listen on this project. Tom Waits for one has the voice that can produce singing closest to Johnson's. Derek Trucks is much more than just a blues rocker, I think he is among the finest bottleneck slide players active today.
Perhaps the producer is trying to stay away from the obvious choices - the Cooders, Dylans, Muldaurs...not sure I can come up with others.
Paying 10% to Kickstarter and credit fees is probably standard for any Kickstarter project. All that money for rewards is BS though. Just give albums and t-shirts out. And 33rpm designed to look like 78rpm records? Silly.
For the budget, it should sound really good though. Modern studio time is expensive, from what I understand.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Help Produce The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2013, 02:34:57 PM »
Jeffrey Gaskill produced the Dylan project, not Tom Feldman. I assume that he first pitched the project to the majors, but without success. Thus, the Kickstarter route.

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