Blues Origins: Spanish Fandango and Sebastopol | Jas Obrecht Music Archive

The little-known story of how European-based parlor guitar music from the 1860s influenced the creation of the blues.

Source: Blues Origins: Spanish Fandango and Sebastopol | Jas Obrecht Music Archive

These tunes, “Spanish Fandango” and “Sebastopol,” are two of the more important non-blues tunes in the blues guitar repertoire since they are the source of both “Spanish” (open-G) and “Vestopol” (open-D) tunings. These tunings translated from the parlor guitar tradition, most likely as sheet music sold along with mail-order parlor guitars, though it was the tunings that stayed, easier to slide with. John Dilleshaw’s version of “Spanish Fandango” sounds just like the version I learned from John Renbourn’s Guitar Player magazine columns in the 1990s. read more

Fife and Drum in Como, MS – Cultural Equity Research Center

Source: Cultural EquityResearch Center

This is some of the funkiest music I’ve heard in a long time, I like that the fife is playing in a major scale while the voice repeats a phrase and the drums lock it down (“Oree”); “Jim and John” is more about the lyrics, but the accent is very heavy, difficult for me to understand; “On That Rock” is church music with a great drum groove; then there is the guitar and fiddle music like “Joe Turner,” sounding like fiddle band pre-blues, the rhythm sounding a lot like the Rolling Stones’s “Country Honk”; then the polyrhythmic bottleneck playing of Fred McDowell, “Write Me a Few of Your Lines,” and “Shake ‘Em On Down,” and the magnificent “Sun Rose This Morning,” with the cheesy kazoo playing not quite distracting from the brilliance of the guitar playing; all of this from Lomax’s 1959 Southern recording trip. read more

R.L. Burnside – Mississippi Hill Country Blues – Full Album – YouTube

I love the Mississippi hill country blues, especially R.L. Burnside and Fred McDowell. Some of the coolest grooves in blues – lots of texture and rhythm for a more individual, vocal-style playing on the guitar. Burnside has some more modal-type grooves and longer-form melodic ideas, where McDowell has these brilliantly contrapuntal lines that mimic the voice of the singer and the voice of a church response. I much prefer McDowell’s version of “Shake em all down,” but grooves like “Poor Black Mattie” are the stuff of music. And his version of “Deep Blue Sea Blues”/”Rolling Stone”/etc. is very deep and modal; “Rolling and Tumbling” is killer good, I love that he is able to pitch his voice in the bottom and mid registers of the key of the moment, and then in the next tune hit the mid and low-upper registers; “I believe, I believe my time ain’t long,” McDowell also did a version of this tune; “Poor boy, a long way from home,” again, both Burnside and McDowell do versions of this tune, but with this tune their versions are very different; “Jumper Hanging on the Line,” he’s got something on his mind… read more

Houndog Taylor – Give me Back My Wig – YouTube

Ferocious slide playing when it’s his time to shine, subtle when playing behind the tune, I swear the amp has already blown, when the solo kicks in the whole thing, guitar and amp, just scream with pain and joy… that was a presumptuous observation…let me say that the part really roars and sings, in my opinion, a little out of tune, but nasty out of tune. I love it.

Give me back my wig, goddamit, can’t you see I’m bald without?

Cultural Equity Research Center

Alan Lomax

Source: Cultural Equity Research Center

This is the source for what I assume is most of Alan Lomax’s field recordings. I would need to go through the catalog numbers, but really I don’t want to; whether or not the complete recordings are available, this is a great resource for teaching or just for listening. I love the prison recordings and the Southern country blues in particular, but I’m also partial to the calypso and the other Caribbean recordings. I’m definitely assigning this for class listening projects, asking students to identify and describe or defend individual compositions or groups of compositions. read more