Son House – Dry Spell Blues Part 1 (1930) – YouTube

I don’t know why this video features an image of Charlie Patton, but there you go. The person who uploaded this video says he was first introduced to Son House’s music through a Charlie Patton compilation, but it’s still a funny choice of image.

The guitar playing on this tune is incredibly complex and polyrhythmic while maintaining a very simple aesthetic. On top of that is House’s incredibly powerful voice – it’s one of those voices like Howlin’ Wolf’s that probably overwhelmed audiences, demanding their attention. read more

Tom Morello’s Tricks Pt 1 – YouTube

Video of Morello discussing his guitar technique (the person who uploaded the video has blocked the ability to embed this video).

I’m not really a fan of heavy metal inspired guitar playing, but Morello is a very interesting player. I have a feeling the guy has massive chops, but it’s his unique use of just a few pedals that makes him stand out. That and his commitment to left politics makes for a very powerful musician.

I suppose most people wouldn’t equate a musician’s politics with their musicianship, but I have always been drawn to musicians who have something consequential to say. Sun Ra and Fela, for instance, were all about history and politics, and this adds depth to their music. At least from my perspective it does. I love Adrian Belew’s guitar playing, for instance, but most of his music is utterly forgettable to me. I much prefer someone who has something to say. This is yet another reason why I love the music of Son House – his lyrics talk about life (“porkchops 45 cents a pound, cotton is only 10” from “Dry Spell Blues”) in a way that highlights the everyday politics and economy of a black person living in the South. It’s a damn sight more substantial than “baby got back” (though I appreciate that sentiment as well). read more

Blues Maker (1969 Documentary About Mississippi Fred McDowell) – YouTube

This is a nice mini-documentary featuring Mississippi Fred McDowell’s music and some film footage of people in Mississippi. I can only assume that some of the footage was taken in Como, MS where McDowell lived. Como is part of the hill country section of the state whose blues is more modal than the better known Mississippi delta blues.

McDowell is one of my favorite guitar players – his playing is simultaneously simple and complex, if that makes any sense. Each song has just a few musical elements to it, but the syncopation and intonation are deeply felt and tremendously complex in their own right. His playing is immediately recognizable and unique; I’m not aware of any other guitar players that sound remotely like him unless they are consciously trying to copy him. Brilliant stuff, for sure. read more

Blind Willie Johnson – Dark was the night… – YouTube

This performance is just about as deep as they come, mixing the blues with gospel music in a very unique and thoroughly expressive style – every time I hear it I get the chills. In fact, this song was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included among the 27 songs and other sound recordings sent on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 (on an LP made out of gold, apparently).

One tiny frustration with this video is that the featured photo that appears at c.1:30 (see above) is a well known photo of Blind Willie McTell, not Johnson. read more

Various Artists – Marvellous Boy (Honest Jon’s Records) [Full Album] – YouTube

West African calypso music from the 1950s! One of the things I find most fascinating about African diasporic music is that it travels so broadly in multiple directions. Calypso, funk, soul, Afro-Cuban, all exist in African popular music from the magic of the traveling LP – LPs moved about the globe on ships, traded by sailors and imported by record shops. The only unfortunate dynamic is that African popular music was not as widely recorded and distributed as music from Europe and the Americas, but I love hearing what African musicians do with the foreign music they listened to. read more

Adrian Belew performs Drive (guitar solo) – Pt 1/3 – YouTube

This is a fascinating three-part interview with one of the best rock and roll guitar players from the 1970s and beyond – very humble, very curious, and a very creative player. One of the things I appreciate about the interview and Q & A session (this is from the 2011 Chicago Humanities Festival) is that Belew is able to demonstrate his various concepts so simply, even though the process of getting to where he is probably required an intense study of the technology; I like that Belew’s musicality is the first thing that comes through, not the mass of technology at his feet and hands. He is a master of the technology, of course, but it’s his status as a musician that shines through. I would love to hear him play an acoustic guitar or a piano. read more

FirstSounds.ORG

Source: FirstSounds.ORG

This is a fascinating website dedicated to preserving the earliest audio recordings.

Contrary to the belief that Thomas Edison invented sound recording in the 1870s, the first sound recordings were made between 1853-1860 by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in Paris (it is likely that Edison was unaware of Scott de Martinville’s work, indicating that Edison did, in a sense, invent something that had been invented separately 20 years earlier).

FirstSounds.org describes Scott de Martinville’s recordings as the first airborne recorded sounds, differentiating them from other recording technologies such as the player piano and music box. Granted, there is no particular artistry in these recordings – they consist of someone humming “Claire de Lune” and a major scale – but there is great historical significance in that they are the first audio recordings. read more

78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings : Free Audio : Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Source: 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings : Free Audio : Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

This is the audio collection of the Internet Wayback Machine, the primary internet archive of the internet. This is all free audio, ranging from early recordings of Enrico Caruso to field recordings of Mississippi John Hurt to recordings of Wagner operas and Louis Armstrong’s cornet. This is a great resource for music heads.

The Art of Listening – Music Documentary (2017) – YouTube

This is a very interesting documentary about the fine details musicians, producers, engineers, and instrument makers put into music. I wouldn’t classify myself as an audiophile, but I do care about the sound.

Despite the resolution of the sound, though, some music still connects with me possibly because of the lo-fi quality of the recording. Lo-fi sometimes sounds to me like a more realistic portrayal of what the music sounds like. I constantly tweak my guitar to fit the characteristics of the space I am playing in, but I’m fully aware that what I hear is not what a listener hears. A listener is constantly battling with acoustics, and to a certain extent this adds depth to the music. read more