Sun 22 Nov 2009
|Yank Rachel & Shirley Griffith||Peach Orchard Mama||Art of Field Recording Vol. I|
|J. T. Adams||Red River||Art of Field Recording Vol. I|
|Sam Chatmon||I Have To Paint My Face||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Robert Curtis Smith||Stella Ruth||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Butch Cage & Willie Thomas||Forty Four Blues||I Have To Paint My Face|
|Little Brother Montgomery||Talking/Vicksburg Blues||Conversation With The Blues|
|Otis Spann||Talking/People Call Me Lucky||Conversation With The Blues|
|Johnny Young & Arthur Spires||21 Below||Blues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1|
|Jim Brewer||Big Road Blues||Blues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1|
|Boogie Bill Webb||Dooleyville Blues||Goin' Up The Country|
|Arzo Youngblood||Four Women Blues||Goin' Up The Country|
|Babe Stovall||Worried Blues||The Old Ace|
|Roosevelt Holts||Big Fat Mama Blues||South Mississippi Blues|
|Esau Weary||You Don’t Have To Go||South Mississippi Blues|
|Houston Stackhouse||Bye Bye Blues||Big Road Blues|
|Lum Guffin||Jack Of Diamonds||Walking Victrola|
|Dewey Corley||Last Night||On The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974|
|Lattie Murrell||Spoonful||On The Road - Country Blues 1969-1974|
|Elster Anderson||Black And Tan||Unreleased|
|George Higgs||Skinny Woman Blues 2||Unreleased|
|Lewis "Rabbit" Muse||Jailhouse Blues||Western Piedmont Blues|
|Turner Foddrell||Slow Drag||Western Piedmont Blues|
|John Tinsley||Red River Blues||Western Piedmont Blues|
|Joe Savage||Joe's Prison Camp Holler||Living Country Blues|
|James Son Thomas||Standing At The Crossroads||Living Country Blues|
|Joe Callicott||Country Blues||George Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45|
|Cliff Scott||Long Wavy Hair||George Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45|
|Jimmy Lee Williams||Have You Ever Seen Peaches||George Mitchell Collection Vol. 1 - 45|
|Johnny Johnson & Group||I'm In The Bottom||Wake Up Dead Man|
I suppose it sounds rather romantic spending your time roaming around the south with a tape recorder recording blues but for all the rewards and exciting discoveries it’s a stressful enterprise, not to mention a precarious way to make a living. These days hardly anyone one does it anymore and the sad fact is that blues has largely disappeared as integral part of African-American rural communities; most of the old timers have passed on and few of the younger generation are interested in blues, particularly traditional blues. Much has been written about John and Alan Lomax who scoured the south and beyond making landmark recordings for the Library of Congress from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Less well known are those that followed in the Lomax’s footsteps; there was folklorists and researchers such as David Evans, Sam Charters, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Frederic Ramsey, Art Rosenbaum, Pete Welding, Chris Strachwitz , Bruce Bastin, Bengt Olsson, Dick Spottswood, Kip Lornell, Glenn Hinson, Tim Duffy, Siegfried A. Christmann and Axel Küstner. Some were hunting for the famous names who made records in the 1920’s and 1930’s, others were seeking to fill in biographical blanks regarding some of the older musicians coveted by collectors and then there were those who were seeking to document the blues tradition as it still existed in rural communities, men like George Mitchell and Peter B. Lowry. This was a very different undertaking than 1960’s blues revival which sought out and put back on the circuit such legendary artists of the past as Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and Mississippi John Hurt. The field recordings made during this era were a sort of a parallel undercurrent to the more famous artists. What they recorded in the rural communities of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960’s was a still thriving, if largely undocumented, blues culture. The bulk of theses recordings were issued on small specialist labels and many have yet to be reissued on CD. Today's program is the first of a multi-part series on some of these remarkable recordings.
The earliest tracks come from 1960 and were made by Paul Oliver and Chris Strachwitz and come from the albums Conversations With The Blues, a companion to Oliver's landmark book, and I Have To Paint My Face which was issued on Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. The recordings on I Have To Paint My Face were made by Chris Strachwitz in the Summer of 1960, the same year he formed his now legendary Arhoolie record label. That summer Strachwitz and blues scholar Paul Oliver and his wife made a trip through Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas to interview and record older blues artists for a series of programs sponsored by the BBC. Among those recorded were Sam Chatmon, K.C. Douglas, Big Joe Williams, Butch Cage & Willie Thomas, Robert Curtis Smith and others. Conversations With The Blues is a series of interviews, in the artists own words, compiled from interviews with over sixty blues singers. The interviews stem from a trip Oliver made to the United States between June and September 1960.
Today's program features a number of recordings made by David Evans. It was Evans' investigation into Tommy Johnson in the late 1960’s that we owe a good deal of what we know about Johnson and it was through Evans’ field recordings that Johnson’s influence comes into sharper focus. Evans recorded many men who learned directly from Johnson including Roosevelt Holts, Boogie Bill Webb, Arzo Youngblood, Isaac Youngblood, Bubba Brown, Babe Stovall, Houston Stackhouse and Tommy’s brother Mager Johnson. Long out of print are several important collections of Evans’ field recordings that gather artists influenced by Johnson. Most importantly is The Legacy of Tommy Johnson (1972), the companion LP to Evans’ Tommy Johnson biography featuring all songs that were in Johnson’s repertoire and all of which were learned by the artists from Johnson himself. Today's show spotlights selections from South Mississippi Blues and Goin’ Up The Country. David Evans began making field recordings in 1965 when he spent about five weeks taping blues artists in Mississippi and Louisiana. The collection Goin’ Up The Country released on Decca in 1968 collects some of the best performances he recorded. The album was reissued in 1976 on Rounder and Rounder also released South Mississippi Blues in 1973, another collection of field recordings from the same period. in addition we play a cut by Houston Stackhouse with his partner Carey Mason that stem from recordings Evans made in Crystal Springs, MS in 1967.
Bengt Olsson first came to the United States in 1964, first to Chicago and then to Memphis were he made some recordings. Olsson was back in 1971, where he made recordings in Memphis and Alabama. Olsson recorded several talented artists including Lum Guffin (his album Walking Victrola was issued on Flyright), Lattie Murrell and Perry Tillis among others. Some of Olsson's recordings appear on the CD On The Road – Country Blues 1969-1974.
Pete Welding was one of the premiere documentarians of the 1960’s blues revival. Welding began recording and interviewing artists in the late 50’s and he began writing a column in Downbeat Magazine in 1959 called “Blues And Folk.” He moved to Chicago in 1962 where he formed his Testament Records label as an outlet for his fieldwork . Other of his recordings appeared on Storyville, Prestige, Blue Note and Milestone. We spotlight some of Weldings' recordings from the album Blues Roots: The Mississippi Blues Vol. 1 recorded by circa 1964/1965.
Between 1969 and 1980 Pete Lowery amassed hundreds of photographs, thousands of selections of recordings, music and interviews in his travels through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. He formed the Trix label as an outlet to release his recordings. Lowry set up the Trix Records label in 1972 starting with a series of 45’s with LP’s being released by 1973. It lasted about a decade as an active label dealing mainly with Piedmont blues artists from the Southeastern states. In addition to the seventeen issued Trix albums there is sufficient material for another 40 to 50 CD’s. Many of the artists who had albums released were recorded extensively by Lowry and in most cases there is enough material in the can for follow-up records. In fact Lowry’s unreleased recordings far exceed the released recordings. Today’s program features some unreleased tracks that Lowry was kind of enough to send me.
In 1980 two young German blues enthusiasts, Axel Küstner and Siegfried Christmann, came to America with the idea to document the remaining country blues tradition. With their station wagon and portable recording equipment they hit the dusty road spending a couple of months documenting blues, gospel, field hollers and work songs throughout the South. As the notes proclaim: “Traveling 10,000 miles by car in 2 1/2 months, they used 180,000 feet of tape and took hundreds of photographs to document various aspects of Country Blues, as well as work songs, fife and drum band music, field hollers and rural Gospel music, performed by 35 artists, some of whom appear on record for the first time.” From October 1st through November 30th the duo rolled through Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, New Orleans and of course Mississippi. These remarkable recordings were first issued across 12 LP’s titled Living Country Blues USA plus one double set on the German L+R label between 1980 and 1981. They have since been reissued on CD.
From the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s George Mitchell roamed all over the south recording blues in small rural communities where the music still thrived. Many of these recordings have appeared on specialist labels like Southland, Revival, Flyright, Arhoolie and Rounder but are long out of print now. Several years ago the Fat Possum label acquired the Mitchell archive and has been reissuing the recordings.
Art Rosenbaum is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. His field recordings have been collected on two 4-CD box sets on the Dust-To-Digital label called the Art Of Field Recording. Rosenbaum was also involved in producing several albums for Bluesville in the early 60’s including records by Indianapolis artists Scrapper Blackwell, Pete Franklin, Shirley Griffith, J.T.Adams and Brooks Berry. I'll be spotlighting Rosenbaum's blues recordings as well as interviewing him at the end of January.
The Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, released a series of eight LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the group title Virginia Traditions. Each album featured an aspect of traditional Virginia folk music, setting old 78s and field recordings alongside more recent field material. From that series we spotlight three tracks for the album Western Peidmont Blues.
We close the show with Johnny Johnson & Group perfroming "I’m In The Bottom" from the album Wake Up Dead Man. "Making it in hell", Bruce Jackson says, is the spirit behind the songs that comprise the album and book Wake Up Dead Man is a collection of prison worksongs taped by Bruce Jackson in 1965 and 1966 in Texas prisons. Research was done at three primary institutions; the Ramsey unit (Camps 1 and 2), Ellis, and Wynne. Allowed complete freedom in these facilities, Bruce Jackson talked with, interviewed, and recorded inmates over time to collect information for this book.