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I’ve posted about Lonnie Johnson a bunch on this blog, he’s easily one of my favorite male blues artists – and his ranges of styles makes him appropriate for any day. A good cross section of his stuff are these two sides – one an attempted murder ballad about a man who knows his woman is out to kill him in various ways in this warning to all cuckold men. The second is the aptly titled duet “Four Hands Are Better Than One” a fun and fast dance number that is a showy display of both his and his unknown piano companion’s talents.
Lonnie Johnson – Man Killing Broad (1937)
Lonnie Johnson – Four Hands Are Better Than One (1927)
Tompkins Square has put out the first major anthology of the Red Fox Chasers, a North Carolina String band that recorded in the 20s and 30s. All’s not well with this 2-disc set however, which is shocking as People Take Warning is one of my favorite box-sets of pre-war music and Fire In My Bones (review coming soon!) is just as good. This set has 42 sides,spread across 4 or 5 different sessions. Unfortunately the notes only present clues to when and where these songs were recorded – my number one pet peeve in the reissue world.
The music itself is terrific of course, the Red Fox Chasers who often live in Charlie Poole’s shadow are accomplished musicians and pull off close harmony better than almost any other string band of the time. Naomi Wise is their version of the classic North Carolina murder ballad of a girl who is beaten and drowned by her boyfriend who preceded to escape several prisons before karma would catch up to him. A brief scan of Google shows theirs a handful recorded versions of this ballad around , though I only have Doc Watson covering it – feel free to send a couple this way.
Buy Album Here!
Red Fox Chasers – Naomi Wise
Red Fox Chasers- Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?
A lot of really wonderful pre-war discs came out towards the end of the 2009 and I missed them all. Of course I get emails promoting pretty much everything BUT pre-war music so I’m playing catch up now. The first of these discs is Gastonia Gallop, a collection of pre-war country/folk songs from Gaston County, North Carolina a place that holds special place in my heart as my Grandparents lived there for most of their lives. As a kid I can remember my Grandfather driving me through the mill houses, for the mill that had long been closed, showing where his friends/cousins lived and how what the impact the mill closing had on the city and the riot of 29 that changed the racial landscape of the city.
This is and Old Hat release, a North Carolina based reissue label who, all state pride aside, are doing the best work around. Their releases are singular in thought and vision. They don’t make sprawling multi disc releases covering everyone who passed through Gaston County, but a selection of important records covering the scope of material – and presented with a strong point of view and narrative that is supplemented by wonderful liner notes. Both tracks presented here are great examples of how “urban” Gaston County musicians sounded – compare this to the string bands to the east and blues musicians to the north during the same time period and it’s a night and day difference from instrumental complexity to just the sound of the recordings, both things not normally associated with pre-war country. It’s great fun to compare the second side here with a lot of the Piedmont blues songs from this period, men had the same thoughts about Carolina girls every where.
Buy Gaston Gallop here!
Wilmer Watts & The Lonely Eagles – She’s A Hard Boiled Rose (1929)
David McCarn – Take Them For A Ride (1930)
Thanks for the kind wishes on our marriage, we had a great couple of weddings and a week of bliss in San Diego and La Jolla which was just what was needed after a couple of months of insanity trying to close on the house and planning the wedding.
I picked up the new Dust To Digital set Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism In Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950 last week and it hasn’t left my mind since then. Structured much like last years’ Victrola Favorites, Take Me To The Water focus is on the book and what a wonderful book it is – drawn from the collection of folk art archivist Jim Linderman, the book contains some just stunning photos of immersion baptism of both groups and individuals across a pretty broad timeframe. Lyrics and some notes on baptism are scattered through the book and they are insightful and well informed. The book closes with a substantial notes section on each of the songs with recording dates and a brief bio on the singers. The disc itself is quite good – and while it contains some of the same artists from Goodbye, Babylon the sides are different and fit well within the theme. It is somewhat disappointing to see the repetition of artists at all, but I feel that pool of songs that would fit thematically is already slim enough plus the disc is really just a bonus, the book stands alone as a great and important work and one that everyone should pick up.
Buy It Here
Jim Linderman’s Blog Dull Tool Dim Bulb
Carolina Tar Heels – I’ll Be Washed (1928)
Moses Mason – John The Baptist (1928)
Let’s first start off with life update aka reason blog hasn’t been updated. I’m getting married on Friday (and Saturday) and the wedding planning and whatnot has been taking up a lot of my after work time. I also bought a house and moved to Durham, which took up the rest of my time. I’ll be away on honeymoon to San Diego for the week following. I’m going to give a seal a big hug.
The Puzzling case of the Fiery Furances’ new track I’m Going Away: It is being noted in all the P.R. that the title track lyrics are being credited to Trad. The guitar riff is sounds like its from John Lee Hooker , but those lyrics? At first I assumed it would be a take on Frank Stokes’ side, but there’s very few similarities between those two songs and even less between the track and Elizabeth Cotten or Ralph Willis or any blues song I know – so I’m asking, what is it adapted from?
Fiery Furances – I’m Going Away (2009)
John Lee Hooker – I’m Going Away (1951)
Elizabeth Cotten – I’m Going Away (1965)
Ralph Willis – I’m Going Away (1951)
Frank Stokes – I’m Going Away (1927)
I signed on a house last week, hopefully that means I’ll be able to unpack all my blues cds finally after their 6 or so months of captivity in old wine boxes. Durham will be my new home, I can already feel the Bull City pride sweeping through my consciousness.
If you were having problems downloading the last couple files, I believe I’ve fixed the extra “/” being inserted when uploading files.
Today’s track is from Elizabeth Johnson who spins Easy (See See, C.C) Rider into a first person narrative about leaving that man…then comes back for revenge with a “big long shiny barrel.” Despite the familiar premise the lyrics are strong, and Johnson breaks her monotone singing style for a few moments where she lets some guinie anger slip in when singing “I ain’t no dog/please don’t dog me around/it’s your time now…” The title seems ironic, as there’s no Sobbin’ in this side.
Elizabeth Johnson – Sobbin’ Woman Blues (1928)
I’m late to the game about this but, over at the Encyclopedia Britannica blog the did a nice post compiling difference versions of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” for the song’s 70th anniversary. It’s a collection of youtube links rather than downloads which is sad, but I’m a sucker for these sorts of posts. Check it out here.
Nolan Welsh recorded less than a dozen sides for Paramount in the late 20s, all of them superb both in voice and talent on the ivories. Like all the stories on this blog, he didn’t get any record sales and is now these sides languish in relative obscurity. Out of the two songs I’m posting today, I’m obsessed with Larceny Woman Blues, the vocals on this track really remind more of more Delta blues vocal styles than most piano blues singers which I find a lot of fun. Dying Pickpocket Blues isn’t a St. James variant as I had hoped, but it’s still fantastic.
Nolan (Barrelhouse) Welsh – Dying Pickpocket Blues (1929)
Nolan (Barrelhouse) Welsh – Larceny Woman Blues (1929)
I hope that everyone had a lot of fun with the St. James’ posts. I keep going back to the second set of songs personally. I think almost all of those songs are top notch. We are back to our normal, yet sporadic posts of blues joy around these parts.
We are starting off with a wonderful batch of instrumentals by groups of players in Georgia in 1929. The first track is an dual harp instrumental version of “Honey, Where You Been So Long” The harmonica players are Eddie Mapp and James Moore and are back by Guy Lumpkin on guitar. Only Mapp is somewhat known for playing on a few tracks with Curley Weaver. The second track is Mapp back by Slim Barton on Guitar – and Mapp shows what a talented harmonica player he really was – as he leads this take on 4th Avenue Blues.
Eddie Mapp/James Moore – Where You Been So Long? (1929)
Eddie Mapp/Slim Barton – Fourth Avenue Blues (1929)
I updated the release dates for the first blues mix below – I knew someone would call me out for not including it – yet here we are. Does anyone know if Yazoo Records is still releasing albums? Their website doesn’t seem like it has been updated since the last batch of Patton reissues, but I keep seeing new (at least to me) discs pop up every so often.
We have a trio of songs from Luella Miller today. Miller was was a well traveled blues singer – her topical songs seem to focus on St.Louis and Mississippi though she recorded in both New York and Chicago. The first track was her first release and feature guitar great Lonnie Johnson on violin! He would appear on several of her early recordings on guitar, but it’s interesting to hear him on violin – which I’ve only heard a handful of songs feature him on that instrument. The last two tracks are my favorite, and unfortunately her last recorded works – her voice has matured a lot in couple years between recordings and she’s back by her best band, especially on the on wonderful side Wee Wee Daddy Blues.
Luella Miller – Dago Hill Blues (1926)
Luella Miller – Chicago Blues (1928)
Luella Miller – Wee Wee Daddy Blues (1928)
There’s not a whole lot out there about “Hambone” Willie Newbern – the story about him giving guitar tips to Sleepy John Estes and his temper – which may of led to his death in prison in 1947. Listening to his sides over the weekend, and pretty much all day today – I haven’t heard a more interesting and exciting blues musician for the first time in a very long time. Newbern’s got that hard, driving guitar that’s as steady as the railroad – and a great booming voice that must have been amazing to hear in person, and both of which make for a great blues musician and one that needs to be heard by everyone.
Newbern was born in Tennessee, and traveled as musician all across the South playing in medicine shows which shows in his vocal style and subject matter. I prefer his more personal material – his narrative about being arrested and thrown in jail is my personal favorite. These tracks were recorded in 1929 in Atlanta over two sessions for Okeh.
Hambone Willie Newbern – Shelby County Workhouse (1929)
Hambone Willie Newbern – Hambone Willie\’s Dreamy Eyed Woman\’s Blues (1929)