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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My favorite teacher of the blues, generously dishing it out one week at a time at Sonic Junction as one of their first teachers. He even teaches this version of “Special Rider Blues” in an odd tuning of his own invention, inspired by the time he spent with Ali Farka Toure. Mr. Harris is a very generous teacher with a real head-full of music and clear passion for what he does. This is one dude I would love to spend some time talking to.
But check out this guitar playing. He’s got a syncopated bass going on in 12/8 time with a nice modal melody on top. Most people who approach a song like this get dazzled by Skip James’s original playing on this tune, so it’s nice to see someone who has found a way to complement James rather than copy. James was such a virtuoso that it takes much time to master his playing. Harris took the tune to Mali and found a new way to express James’s music.
Ry Cooder’s roaring and stinging slide playing is the real heart of this excellent song. Don’t get me wrong, John Hiatt is brilliant, but he seems to have let Cooder loose on this tune. I love his fumbling, behind the beat chord playing, but I especially love the way his guitar is a melodic foil for Hiatt’s voice. Cooder’s amp is sizzling with a great overdriven sound. His slide playing is muted when it needs to be, and roaring when it can. This is my all time favorite electric slide tune.
This is deep, coming from Wim Wenders’s contribution to Martin Scorsese’s The Blues from a few years ago. It starts off with Blood Ulmer, Eagle Eye Cherry, and Vernon Reid playing a tune and morphs to the original J.B. Lenoir version, accompanying video of the Klan in Mississippi. Ulmer’s hands are so big I don’t know how he is able to play the guitar, let alone play it well. But even with electronic percussion (Cherry) this tune has some depth and slow swing to it; it’s all in how you phrase against the beat.
A guide to contemporary acoustic and traditional blues
Source: The Country Blues
This is a pretty deep site that pays attention to contemporary players of the old time country blues. Unfortunately I don’t see any discographic information in the posts, and no links to audio files, thought there are some YouTube links. Blues nerds like to track down albums, so just a few discographic references per post would do well. But this site is definitely a big work of love – I can tell how much the sitemaster really digs his subject. In the end, this is the kind of site I could waste a bunch of my time flipping through.
How the mesmerizing “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” one of the earliest known blues songs, journeyed from 1920s Southern bluesmen into mainstream rock and roll.
I can tell that Jas Obrecht’s site is going to be a favorite for a while. I love how he drills down on something like a specific song. “Rolling and Tumbling” is one of the all time great delta blues dance tunes. I’m most familiar with Hambone Willie Newbern’s and Muddy Waters’s versions of the tune, but Obrecht traces the first version he is aware of to a 1928 recording by Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers. Newbern’s recording was in 1929, and of course Muddy’s version is a number of years older. This is definitely a must-have tune for a blues musician’s repertoire.