Big thanks! to Jeff for solving the blues mystery – you guys are the best readers a boy could hope for. If anyone else has a song mystery on their hands – send it into pkpatnaik at prewarblues.org and the bees will jump right on it.
Virginia Liston was a well traveled singer by the time she recorded these sides for Okeh in the early 20s. Liston had fallen ill and forced to stop touring as much and so she started to record pretty standard female blues numbers, though I doubt these were the same songs she was singing in New York and Chicago blues bars at the time. She does bring an intersting perspective to these songs though, she’s not docile or angry – but consistently blue. The first track here, You Thought I Was Blind But Now I See, she keeps her temper and stands up strong to her man, in this well written third person narrative. The second track presented today is a pretty rough transfer, but it’s so so blue. Liston has given up on men – she prefers to be alone – and if IF she’s with a man, it’s just for money and show. Right On Virginia.
Virginia Liston – You Thought I Was Blind But Now I See (1923)
Virginia Liston – I Don’t Love Nobody (1924)
A reader sent me this me this song the other day to get my help identifying the actual performer of the song. The compilation it comes from lists this song as being preformed by Cool Papa Smith who I don’t have any reference for, the compilation also calls Funny Paper Smith, Funny Pappa Smth, so it’s not the best researched CD. The song is If You Change Your Ways Woman, which I only know that Big Maceo sang, but it is possible that the song title is wrong also.
Anyone know this song?
“Cool Papa Smith” – If You Change Your Ways Woman (link fixed) (m4a file)
Sorry for the lack of blues postings this week – it has been crazy busy around Honey H.Q. and in my blogging time I’ve been trying to fix some annoying CSS errors with the new redesign and Internet Explorer. I did get everything working so all it needs is a coat of paint and it will be ready to go live. Also a big thanks to everyone who donated this week – I’m working on getting some more downloads up for the loyal Honey Bees.
Long-Time followers of the blog will know that I’m obsessed with this song and the sound. Martha Copeland recorded her take on it in 1927 and it is an interesting take eschewing the typical dirge for a more traditional blues sound which is a shame, but I absolutely love her spoken work part towards the end. The little hints of the traditional dying crapshooter blues dirge sound are nice though I would have preferred if they had used it throughout.
Martha Copeland – The Dying Crap-Shooter’s Blues (1927)
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)
Lawrence Casey recorded two sides for Brunswick in 1929 under the unfortunate nickname “Papa Egg Shell” reportedly because of the shape of his head and not his fragile psyche. These tracks are country blues in its purest form. Casey is a superb guitar player with a voice that should have at least got him half a dozen sides. Unfortunately, that’s the story with many of the people posted here at Honey, but at least we can here the few songs they did record.
Papa Egg Shell – Whole Soul Blues (1929)
This was the track I was planning on posting yesterday. Walter Vinson leads this duet with Harry Chatman on piano in this incredibly fun and fresh sounding. Chatman steals the show here, but Vinson pulls the whole song together. The second track “Overtime Blues” is a showcase for Vinson, just him and his wonderful guitar – but it raises some doubt on if the Leroy Carter of the first track is Vinson as rumored. I think the guitar on “Can’t Anyone Tell Me Blues” sounds a lot like Vinson and the vocals could just be off because of the recording equipment.
Leroy Carter (Walter Vinson) – Can’t Anybody Tell Me Blues (1935)
Walter Vinson – Overtime Blues (1929)
I was going to post a Walter Vinson track today, but I kept listening to this Mary Butler track (featuring Vinson on guitar) and now I’m on a quest to track down her recorded works. Vinson was part of the Mississippi Sheiks, one of the most prolific groups recording in the pre-war era its a wonder how he had time to play on other peoples’ sides as well as record a dozen or more solo numbers. This track was recorded in 1928 and is the first recording of Vinson away from the Sheiks and its an impressive number, Vinson’s guitar work is outstanding and Mary Butler’s vocals don’t over power his playing. It’s obvious that this recording was Vinson’s not Mary’s.
Mary Butler with Walter Vinson – Mad Dog Blues (1928)
Hannah Sylvester recorded a handful of songs for Fletcher Henderson’s Band in 1923 and unlike the majority of his female blues singers she was able to pull off the blues style and not just vaudeville style over singer that a lot of his works are mired with. Her voice is sweet, but solid and Henderson and a very young Coleman Hawkins back her well on this great blues song “Down South Blues.”
Hannah Sylvester – Down South Blues (1923)
Sam Montgomery isn’t known for being the most original blues player around – he emulates Kokomo Arnold and Peetie Wheatstraw a little too well. But don’t you wish more people emulated Arnold and Wheatstraw? He’s a better slide guitar player than he is a vocalist (he doesn’t actually pull off the Wheatstraw vocal patterns very well) but his recordings are still a lot of fun, originality aside.
Sam Montgomery – Mercy Mercy Blues