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)
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Charlie Louvin released a new gospel album, revisited some of his classic gospel songs from his Louvin Brothers days as well as some new takes on classic standards. Overall I find the disc rather middling – it lacks the punch of last years self-titled disc that brought him back into the music. Most of the problems lie in the production that’s overly sweet for Louvin’s voice these days – but I do find his new take on “There is a Higher Power,” the only song on this disc that makes appropriate use of the gospel choir that is featured on all the tracks.
Charlie Louvin – There Is A Higher Power (2008)
Charlie Louvin – Where We’ll Never Grow Old (2008)
John Bondurant left a couple of comments on the Buel Kazee and Wise County posts from a few months ago – and linked to Berea College’s wonderful collection digitalized field recordings from Kentucky and the greater Appalachia area. It’s a revelatory website and really well laid out – you can even search by county! Check it out here.
I received the new Dust To Digital Release, Victrola Favorites from Ms. Honey for Christmas, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since then. I think that Dust To Digital is a pretty hit and miss reissue group – but all their releases have a striking amount of detail and love poured into the song choices (though the art direction and build quality of another one of their new releases, Art of Recording, leaves a lot to be desired and has prevented me from reviewing it fairly thus far.) and this one might be their best work yet.
The set is loosely themed around a collection of 78s from around the world compiled by collectors Jeffery Taylor and Robert Mills and design to simulate a Victrola parlor or I guess more accurately – their Victrola parlor where they play long forgotten 78s they have found from all corners of the world and through many different means. The collection of sides is wonderfully sequenced and each song moves smoothly into the next despite being all different corners for the world. The names and records are mostly unfamiliar to me – which is a pleasant surprise – as this is not just a good collection of sides in the way Goodbye, Babylon or Tikont’s Flashback series are, but it’s a masterful and well documented collection of songs, unheard a much more challenging feat – and one that puts this collection on a short list for one of the best collections of songs that I’ve ever heard. The collection is two discs and held in the covers of a 144 page booklet with amazing detail shots of the 78 labels, sleeves and advertising that accompanied these sides. I can’t really say this strongly enough, but I highly recommend this release.
Buy It Here !
Kelly Harrell – O! Molly Go Ask Your Mother (1927)
Carlos Ramos – Torre De Belem (1931)
I asked this question in the comments secition of the post below, but I thought I’d ask it up front also. Does anyone know where to buy
Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell
in the States? Having a large % of your readers located in Europe makes me feel like I’m missing out on a lot of things, like cheap prices on Document Records and this biography.
Trikont Records is another wonderful European based recorded label, whose compilations are much easier to find than Document’s here in the States. I’ve been pouring over their early harmonica recordings compilation titled “Black & White Hillbilly Music” this past week – and it’s a perfectly sequenced album – flowing between black and white artists with ease helping make those connections between playing styles easier to grasp. The harmonica was important because it was cheap, portable and easy to play but a lot more versatile than the kazoo, so it allowed people of all races and classes a chance to play and hear a lot of different styles of harmonica playing. Of course with the folk revival of the 60s and onward it seems a lot of the nuances of the harmonica have been lost and everyone just plays it like kazoo. This disc is a revelation on just how versatile the harmonica is – and how so many groups incorporated it into their playing style. Two of the tracks I liked the most were from Nelstone’s Hawaiians a country duo named for the two members Hubert Nelson and James Touchstone and also their use of Steel Guitar which at this time was more associated with Hawaiian music more so than country or guitar. The sound of steel guitar and the harmonica in duet is not something I’ve heard before , but it shows that they are perefect match for each other.
Buy the disc here!
Nelstone’s Hawaiians – Just Because (1929)
Nelstone’s Hawaiians – Mobile Country Blues (1929)
If you are looking to donate to a charity this holiday season please consider The Music Maker Foundation – a charity located in North Carolina dedicated to helping blues musicians with living and health care expenses as well as giving them the opportunity to record music. There are several different ways to donate from monthly or quarterly reoccurring to one time donations and it goes to a wonderful cause.
more information here.
By request here are two Dock Boggs recordings from his first two recording sessions in the late 1920s. Boggs recorded a handful of songs in the 20s before the economic times forced him back into the coal mines where he worked most of his life. He would recorded again in the mid 60s for Folkways, a few songs from that sessions are on this website. According to Amazon this disc is now out of print and fetching some crazy prices, so I might upload a few more tracks from to save some folks a few bucks.
Dock Boggs – Hard Luck Blues (1927)
Dock Boggs – Will Sweethearts Know Each Other There? (1929)
One of the only good memories I have of living near the West Virginia/East Kentucky border is of the wonderful public radio station/education center AppalShop. This summer the released a disc of remastered Buell Kazee sides that is quickly making its way to my house as we speak. The Appalshop is wonderful center dedicated to preserving the rich country and bluegrass traditions that are quickly being erased in popular culture. Their site has videos and albums they’ve put together as well as live links so you can listen to their radio shows online. If you haven’t heard Buell Kazee before you are in for a treat – his voice is one of those you’ll never forget – perfect and true – and he’s pretty stellar on banjo also.
Buy the Buel Kazee disc here!
Visit the AppalShop here !
Buell Kazee – Short Life of Trouble
Buell Kazee – Roving Cowboy
The new movie Black Snake Moan does not come out until March 2nd (Friday!!), but here at Honey H.Q. we’ve gotten our hands on the soundtrack which features Samuel L. Jackson doing a few classic blues numbers. Jackson plays an aging bluesman in the movie – and I’m guessing sings these songs during the course – as there is a lot of ambient nosies and dialog in the background of these tracks, especially before Black Snake Moan where he tells a story about his own personal blues and how his wife the did him wrong. Jackson learned how to play guitar for the role and it comes off well, but the star of course his his voice which is perfectly suited for the blues.
Black Snake Moan is left more or less the same as when Blind Lemon Jefferson first sang it in 1927 but his take on Stagolee is a very loose take on the tale that doesn’t feature a gambling match, Stetson hat or any real reason for the murder. It’s sort of a mix between Snatch and the Poontangs and a R.L. Burnside telling of the song which isn’t my favorite by any stretch of imagination, but Jackson sells it a lot better than Burnside. For those keeping up with our ongoing Stagolee project, this Burnside number is new to the list. I’ve also posted a bunch of other takes on the classic Black Snake Moan, my favorites are either Lemon’s original or Rosa Henderson’s female take on the song.
R.L Burnside – Staggolee (2001)
Samuel L. Jackson – Stackolee (2007)
Samuel L. Jackson – Black Snake Moan (2007)
Blind Lemon Jefferson – That Black Snake Moan (1927)
Blind Lemon Jefferson – Black Snake Moan
Blind Lemon Jefferson – Black Snake Moan No. 2
Brownie McGhee – Black Snake Moan (1951)
Lead Belly – Black Snake Moan (1935)
Rosa Henderson – Black Snake Moan (1927)
Martha Copeland – Black Snake Moan (1927)
Cobb and Underwood – Black Snake Moan (1930)
Let me be clear: I don’t like Johnny Cash’s American recordings. I think there are a few good songs, maybe an EP of good material scattered across the four main albums (i haven’t really listened to the box set of unreleased stuff) but most of it is really tired and fluff. Personal File (to be released this coming Tuesday) is different. Recorded by Cash between 1973-1980 as demos/ideas for future recordings Personal File is a small selection of the thousands of songs found after his death. One disc is secular, on gospel and I think they are pretty even in quality. There are some clunkers – his take on Saginaw, Michigan is really limp as is his take on the traditional In The Sweet Bye and Bye which should have been an easy home run. My favorite track is a cover of a Louvin Brothers song “When I Stop Dreaming,” Johnny explains when he first heard this song and how he got to eventually meet and play with the Brothers. It’s a wonderful little moment and prelude to a perfect take on the song.
Johnny Cash – When I Stop Dreaming