Friday, December 25, 2020

Yes! He’s sleeping . . . in heavenly peace

Peter Guralnick’s recommendation of this track in his 1986 book Sweet Soul Music captured my interest and I looked around from time to time for the 12" single but never came across it anywhere. Over the years I would give a half hearted try to find it, maybe see if it made it onto a CD or mp3 somewhere; then it was forgotten until a recent rereading of Sweet Soul Music got the case reopened and this time I found it. As Solomon sings, “Oh, glory hallelujah!” 

Recorded in midsummer in a little church in Macon, Georgia, this is what people in Hawai‘i might call “chicken skin music.” 

Solomon Burke • Silent Night • 1982

Label pic: Discogs

Monday, December 14, 2020

Boogie, boogie, children

Southern white kids pay homage to their blues heroes: Elmore James, Chuck Berry, and John Lee Hooker (and Frankie Lee Sims).

Rod Bernard • No Money Down • 1962

Margaret Lewis • Dust My Blues

John Fred & The Playboys • Boogie Children • 1964

Photo: Rod Bernard & The Twisters from Boppin’ by the Bayous - Drive-Ins & Baby Dolls

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

I’m going away but not to stay

DPRB Folk Festival

The Bright Light Quartet, a group of menhaden fishermen from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, were one of many high spots from Alan Lomax’s 1959–1960 “Southern Journey” field recordings.

Bright Light Quartet • Sweet Roseanne • 1960

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

It’s going to be raining outdoors

DPRB Folk Festival

Johnny Shines, who traveled with Robert Johnson in the thirties, said that one time when RJ played this song, after he finished it got real quiet. “Then I realized they were crying—both women and men.”

Robert Johnson • Come On In My Kitchen • 1937

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Highway 51 runs right by my baby’s door

DPRB Folk Festival

Navel gazing deluxe, 1965–1967, in one ear and out the other and back again, no rolling stone left unturned or unlistened to. Baseline and foundational. Or something.

Having grown up with the Everly Brothers—“Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie”—hearing Bob Dylan’s first album, last song, first side, “Highway 51” was instant homecoming. Maybe the rest of the LP wasn’t exactly great but it sure got played a lot anyway.

Bob Dylan • Highway 51 • 1962

Monday, September 28, 2020

Work on out there!

Really the Postwar Blues Down Homers Part 4

A great little instrumental exercise modeled on “My Babe” with standard exciting guitar licks from Lightnin’ and a whomping drum solo from Spider Kilpatrick.

Lightning & Spider • Candy Wagon • 1965

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gonna leave here runnin’
because walkin’ is most too slow

Really the Postwar Blues Down Homers Part 4

This was always a big favorite after an acoustic live version by Brownie and Sonny appeared on a sixties Vanguard LP, Blues at Newport. Here’s a rollicking band version from 1952.

Brownie McGhee & his Juke Block Busters
 Key to the Highway • 1952

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Grand Mamou

Cajun Classics, part 2

“Mamou is a little Cajun community on one of Southwest Louisiana’s rolling prairies. It won fame a few years ago when it inspired the hit song ‘Big Mamou.’ The town’s greatest claim to fame, however, is that it produced Jimmy “C” Newman, and watched him climb to stardom as a Cajun folk artist, and as one of the brightest country and western stars on The Grand Ole Opry. . . .”
                                                                                                                  —from Bob Hamm’s liner notes to original album

Jimmy “C” Newman • Grand Mamou (Big Mamou) • 1974

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

La Valse de Reno

Cajun Classics, Part 2

Nobody can sing sad Cajun songs like Lawrence Walker, and the handful he did for La Louisianne in the early 60s are the saddest of the sad. Songs like “Unlucky Waltz,” “Yeaux Noir,” “Chere Alice,” and today’s number, “Reno Waltz.” Not that he couldn’t and didn’t step it fast, because he did. But being a melancholy baby (boomer), I’m sticking with the slow, sad ones. At least for today.

 Lawrence Walker • Reno Waltz • 1960

Monday, August 31, 2020

You left me to go to big Texas

Cajun Classics, Part 2

This one really jumps! Papa Cairo and the boys give it everything they’ve got . . . knocked out barroom piano, a couple of wild steel solos, and relentlessly swinging fiddle. What a thrill it must have been to see this band in person. . . . (Side A of the original record was in English, this is the B side.)

Papa Cairo & His Boys • Big Texas • c. 1953

Get it: Acadian All Star Special

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Amazing Grace

Farther Along, part 2

Fuller says in his intro here that this “burying song” has “never been played on a guitar before as I know. . . .” It bears a certain similarity to Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” from 1927, and is equally fine, if a little short in duration.

Jesse Fuller • Amazing Grace • 1955

Get it: Frisco Bound

Friday, August 21, 2020

When the Lord gets ready, you got to move

Farther Along

From the same album that brought us “Frisco Lines” a couple of months ago, here’s Fred’s classic version of “You Got to Move.”

Fred McDowell • You Got To Move • 1966

Get it: You Gotta Move
LP cover: Smithsonian Folkways

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

That’s life, that’s what the people say

Dinosauric Preception Roadmap Blues 1966

Not really a true roadmap-to-the-tar-pits point-along-the-way. We (me, myself, and I) just like it. Maybe if we’d heard it back in the day, and weren’t so prejudiced against our parents’ generation’s music, we probably would have dug it. Aretha Franklin and James Brown did.

Frank Sinatra • That’s Life • 1966

45 label: Discogs

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

If anybody happen to ask you who made up this song

Really the Postwar Blues

The Baby Face Leroy Trio was Leroy Foster, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter. In 1950 they cut a handful of sides for the small Parkway label in Chicago. Probably the most well known is their completely feral recording of the traditional “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” But today, we’re featuring an alternate take of Baby Face Leroy’s “Boll Weevil” which was first issued a couple of years ago on a limited edition 45 out of Great Britain.

Baby Face Leroy Trio • Boll Weevil [alt] • 1950

Monday, July 20, 2020

You’re the girl, little girl . . . baby, but you won’t be true

Really the Postwar Blues

Drifting Slim (real name Elmon Mickle) with Baby Face Turner, Sunny Blair, and Ike Turner on an all-star North Little Rock session.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Well I’m going for to worry you off my mind

Really the Postwar Blues

Here comes another batch of down home postwar blues. Starting off with Dr. Ross, relentless as a cat squirrel.

Doctor Ross & The Orbits • Cat Squirrel • 1959

Get it: Down Home Blues Detroit: Detroit Special

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Lord I seen my baby
way out on that Frisco line

Dinosauric Preception Roadmap Blues 1966

Here’s where the light went on. (I probably say that about every record I really like!)

Fred McDowell • Frisco Lines • 1965

Get it: You Gotta Move
LP cover: Smithsonian Folkways

Monday, June 22, 2020

I want you . . . so bad

Dinosauric Preception Roadmap Blues 1966

“I Want You” was the jaunty radio hit in the summer of ’66 but the flip was the scary side that pulled you down onto Rue Morgue Avenue and wrung you out until you drag-assed yourself back home muttering “I do believe I’ve had enough. . . .”

Bob Dylan • I Want You • 1966

Bob Dylan • Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues • 1966

45 picture sleeve: Rate Your Music

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Eunice Waltz

Cajun Classics

Dunno what it is about this one, but since the first time I heard it and pretty much every time thereafter, Anna Laura Edmiston’s vocal just wreaks havoc on my tear ducts and my innards, in a good but unexpected way.

Feufollet • Eunice Waltz • 2008

Get it: Cow Island Hop

Monday, June 08, 2020

Oh, child, you killin’ me . . . you killin’ me graveyard dead, yeah yea-yeah!

Country Blues Classics

As mentioned at the start of this “country blues” survey, when I first started getting interested in blues music in the mid sixties, a friend played me an Elmore James track off the pictured LP and that sure shook my nerves and rattled my brain. I subsequently went out and bought said LP and one of my favorite tracks was this week’s feature: Munroe “Moe” Jackson’s “Go ’Way From My Door.” Little did anyone know at the time Mr. Jackson was a white guy, more a country singer than a blues artist. (The flip side was a cover of “Move It on Over.”) All I know is that this song was pretty batsh*t crazy, and having grown up listening to early rock & roll and having developed an affinity for the novelty songs of the era, from “Flying Saucer” to “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor” to “Say Man” I was riding shotgun on this one, no questions asked.

Also up today is Alabama slide guitarist John Lee, who recorded half a dozen songs for Ralph Bass, four of which made their way to release on Federal. And with these selections we close out our little foray into the first Country Blues Classics album. Next week, we’ll have a listen to a handful of “Cajun classics.” Now don’t touch that dial. . . .

John Lee • Blinds Blues • 1952

Munroe “Moe” Jackson • Go ’Way from My Door • 1949

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Just a table standing empty by the edge of the sea

Dinosauric Preception Roadmap Blues 1965

In the fall of 1965 Joan Baez released Farewell, Angelina, her first album utilizing the currently popular “folk rock” sound, i.e., light amplified accompaniment a la Bringing It All Back Home or The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man. The album featured two new Dylan songs along with a mix of traditional tunes; songs by Woody Guthrie, Donovan and Pete Seeger; as well as two older Dylan compositions. The title track was a previously unheard Bob Dylan song with mysterious apocalyptic lyrics beautifully sung by Baez as a sad, resigned benediction.

Joan Baez • Farewell, Angelina • 1965

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

They’re gonna put me in the movies

Dinosauric Preception Roadmap Blues 1965

This story’s been told here before. Here it is again. . . . 1965. I’m driving around in my little 1960 blue Falcon, “radio tuned to rock’n’roll.” This country song keeps coming on and I immediately switch stations. What are they doing playing this kind of stuff on a pop station? One day I tune in just as the song ends and the DJ says, “That was ‘Act Naturally’ by The Beatles.” Whaaat?!? Well, after that, I started listening to it and, eating my prejudice for lunch, began to really like it. I mean, it was the Beatles, y’know? Sometime later, one of my friends played me a song he was learning on his guitar, “Buckaroo,” by some guy called Buck Owens. That was pretty fine too. Little by little. . . . Well, at some point along the way I heard Buck Owens’ original of “Act Naturally,” and became a big fan, though the Beatles’ version is still a frozen-in-time favorite. And how do you get Ringo to sound good? Have him sing country!

The Beatles • Act Naturally • 1965

For Buck’s original, click here.

Monday, May 04, 2020

White girls

This was one of our first posts, way back in 2011. Time for a re-up. . . .

Amazingly, Gail Harris was only about 15 when she so soulfully covered Etta James’s “All I Could Do Was Cry” at a dance at the Spanish Castle south of Seattle. Down in Austin, Joyce Harris (no relation) was all of 21 when she screamed out her version of “I Got My Mojo Working;” hard to believe it wasn’t issued at the time. And Margaret Lewis was somewhere around 20 when she made this demo of her song “Reconsider Me” which later was a hit for both Narvel Felts and Johnny Adams. 

The Wailers (vo: Gail Harris) • All I Could Do Was Cry • 1961

Margaret Lewis • Reconsider Me • early 1960s

Joyce Harris & The Daylighters • Got My Mojo Working • 1961

Saturday, May 02, 2020

They tell me they led him away

Greatest Gospel Gems

Edna Gallmon Cooke • The Hammer Rings • 1961

Many thanks to H.M.S. at Cussin’ & Carryin’ On

This is gonna do it for our Gospel survey for awhile. Next Wednesday we’re back to the Tar Pits. . . .

Friday, April 24, 2020

Why did you stumble and why did you fall on the journey

Greatest Gospel Gems

Hard to pick just one all-time classic from Julius Cheeks’ time with the Nightingales. This one’s got everything you need, though, from Rev. Cheeks: hoarse but warm baritone vocals and considerable testifying abilities, both here in abundant measure.

The Sensational Nightingales • A Closer Walk With Thee • 1958

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Lord . . . I . . . come . . . to . . . thee

Greatest Gospel Gems

Back in 2012, The Singing Bones posted an awesome quartet version of an old lining hymn, “A Charge to Keep” by the Echoes of Zion. The Echoes’ song is reminiscent of an earlier quartet record by The Pilgrim Travelers, “I Love the Lord” (also recorded by Rev. Robert Crenshaw in a congregational version). All of these records bring to mind another really fine congregational lining hymn recorded in a Chicago church service by Deacon Leroy Shinault around 1957. Alan Lomax writes, in his notes to Negro Church Music (Atlantic LP 1351), “The most vigorous survival of early black religious folk culture is the lined-out psalm, which is not black in origin, but goes back to the beginning of the Reformation in Europe. . . . The early Protestant leaders needed hymns by means of which they could teach their radical doctrines to an illiterate congregation. Therefore their song leaders intoned the psalms line by line. After each line was given out, the song leader led the congregation in singing it.” Though the Deacon Shinault record is rarely seen (or heard) in its original incarnation on Ping, it (and its flip also heard here) has been reissued over the years on LP and CD and should be relatively easy to find.

Deacon L. Shinault • Lord I Come To Thee / I Cannot Live In Sin • 1957

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I want to be in that number, baby

Really the Postwar Blues

Papa Lightfoot leads the way on the parade you want to be second lining in. . . .

Papa Lightfoot • When the Saints Go Marching In • 1954

We’re gonna branch off this parade for a while and when next you see us, we’ll be back in a gospel mood.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Somebody tell me, tell me, tell me

Really the Postwar Blues

Clifton Chenier’s first record, a terrific heartfelt blues, recorded in less than ideal conditions for J. R. Fullbright’s Elko label in 1954; the original issue misspelled Clifton’s name on both the song title and artist credit. The next year found him recording several fine R&B sides for Specialty. He made a number of one-off singles for Argo, Checker, and Zynn through the fifties before hooking up with Arhoolie in 1964 for a few singles and a whole slew of great albums into the 70s. In a career filled with many fine recordings and live performances around the world, this first one remains one of his very best. . . .

Clifton Chenier • Clifton’s Blues • 1954
issued as “Cliston Blues” by Cliston Chanier “King of the South”

LP cover: Discogs

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ain’t but the one thing nowadays worries my mind

Really the Country Blues Classics

“Of all [Charley] Patton associates, none is more of an enigma than Kid Bailey. . . . Bailey is remembered as having played around the Delta from the early 20s to the mid 50s but no acquaintance knew much about him. . . . [‘Mississippi Bottom Blues’] uses traditional lyrics with a vocal inflection that conveys sadness and poignancy. His guitar accompaniment is straight forward. The second guitar contributes episodic bass notes with a resulting effect that increases the emotional starkness of the tune.”
—Don Kent, from sleeve notes to Masters of the Delta Blues: The Friends of Charlie Patton, Yazoo, 1991

Kid Bailey • Mississippi Bottom Blues • 1929

Monday, March 30, 2020

Sing this song to ease your trouble in mind

Really the Country Blues Classics

“The most distinctive style in all blues was developed by Skip James; it seemed to match the brooding, introspective personality of the man himself. In a short early career replete with masterpieces, one of his greatest is [‘Special Rider Blues’]. His only guitar work in Spanish (Open G) tuning, James’ arrangement and vocal are spellbinding.” —Don Kent, booklet notes to Times Ain’t Like They Used to Be, Vol. 4, Yazoo, 1999

Skip James • Special Rider Blues • 1931

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Someone gives me consolation when I’m all alone

Greatest Gospel Gems

Of all the great gospel quartet leads, and there’s quite a few, I don’t think any of them moves me as much as Archie Brownlee of the Five Blind Boys.

The Original Five Blind Boys • Someone Watches • 1959

Thursday, March 05, 2020

The love of God guides me along my way

Greatest Gospel Gems

When Sam Cooke left the Soul Stirrers to sing pop music, Johnnie Taylor was drafted in from the Highway QCs to replace him, just as Cooke had been similarly picked from the QCs to take over for R. H. Harris when he left the Stirrers. One of my long-time favorite Soul Stirrers sides is “The Love of God,” with a gorgeous Johnnie Taylor lead. I saw this record described in print once as a pedestrian pop ballad; I only wish the Taylor incarnation of the Soul Stirrers had done more of them. . . .

The Soul Stirrers • The Love of God • 1958

LP cover: Discogs

Friday, February 28, 2020

Jesus taught his disciples to say

Greatest Gospel Gems

Sublime. . . .

The Swan Silvertones • The Lord’s Prayer • 1959

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Been so long, the carpet has faded on the floor

Really the Postwar Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson’s amazing solo piece “Mighty Long Time” with only a vocal bass as accompaniment was heard when a friend loaned a borrowed, cracked Trumpet 78; the flip side “Nine Below Zero” had a nasty chunk missing mid-crack but the 78 revolution and big needle just plowed right through it like it was a freshly paved highway. This is blues poetry of the highest rank.

Sonny Boy Williamson • Mighty Long Time • 1952

LP cover: Discogs

Saturday, February 08, 2020

If I don’t find her in Philippine Islands,
she’s in Ethiopia somewhere

Really the Postwar Blues

When I first heard Elmore James’ original version of “Dust My Broom” with Sonny Boy Williamson I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I hadn’t because I hadn’t yet heard “Please Find My Baby”! Well, once I got to the final track on side 2 of Memphis and the Delta, then I knew it, I had been transported to realms way beyond my blues neophyte dreams. This is broom dusting as fierce as it gets . . . Elmore’s off the rails “broom” riff and over the top vocals, held in place by Ike Turner’s pounding piano, well, just have a listen, anything I write here is just a feeble distraction to the main event. Elmore would dust his broom plenty in the coming years but, to this fan, “Please Find My Baby” is the pinnacle.

Elmore James • Please Find My Baby • 1953

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Must not have been those blues that I had

Really the Postwar Blues

Really the Postwar Blues picks up in the middle of our prewar series Really the Country Blues Classics to give an idea of what happened after WWII, when a new national mood as well as the addition of amplified instruments changed the way down home country blues presented itself. Depression’s over, war’s over, a sort of new prosperity is beginning to settle in and the whole country and its various musics plugged into it and things began to jump. . . . First up we have Johnny Shines updating Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues” with liquid slide guitar and thumping bass locking right into the developing tough Chicago Blues sound. We’ll come back to the prewar country blues sounds later, but let’s ramble for a while across the land and listen to some great postwar down home blues. . . .

Johnny Shines • Ramblin’ • 1952

Get it: Down Home Blues – Chicago – Fine Boogie
LP cover: Discogs

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

You can’t watch your wife and your outside women too

Really the Country Blues Classics

The riff that swallowed Mississippi. Nineteen twenty-nine, you say?!

Blind Joe Reynolds • Outside Woman Blues • 1929

LP cover: American Music

Monday, January 06, 2020

Don’t you ease, don’t you ease, don’t you ease me in

Really the Country Blues Classics

If “Old Country Rock” is our favorite William Moore record, then “Don’t Ease Me In” is our top “Ragtime Texas” record.

Henry Thomas • Don’t Ease Me In • 1928

Sunday, January 05, 2020

“C’mon Bill, let’s take ’em for an old country rock. . . .”

Really the Country Blues Classics

Similar to the release on collector LPs of early gospel music during the mid-sixties, the recordings of pre-war “country” blues began to see a similar revival on vinyl reissue albums. Once again Origin Jazz Library led the way with two anthologies, Really! The Country Blues (the title supposedly a dig at Sam Charters’ earlier The Country Blues) and Country Blues Encores, among several other fine collections. Meanwhile, Blues Classics, Arhoolie’s reissue imprint, put out four volumes of Country Blues Classics which featured both pre- and postwar blues recordings and introduced many fine and rare records to a new audience. Yazoo took the OJL concept even further beginning in 1967, figuring out a way to make old, beat up 78s sound pretty listenable with the best music to surface noise ratio yet. Lots of other labels came and went along the way with much fabulous music reaching the ears of the general folk and blues public. This week we’ll be playing one of our favorites every day and plan to follow this up with a couple more weeklong “sessions” over the next few months. We start off this week’s series with our long-time number one favorite, the barber William Moore’s sardonic tour of rockin’ good times in eastern Virginia, “Old Country Rock.”

William Moore • Old Country Rock • 1928
Get it: American Epic