Friday, November 14, 2014

Weeks 13-14: Sailors & Cowhands

Sailors and Cowhands, that's the Music Download selection I'm posting for you on Box. Should be perfect for over the Thanksgiving break and leading into our final regular class on December 2. They fit together, so it makes sense to present them to you back to back, over the two weeks. You can listen to the selections at one go, of course. See below for Download link, Reading, and Primary Songs.

Clipper Ship

SEA SHANTIES. Sailors' songs from a time when the day-to-day work of sailing a ship was intense, all-consuming, and often dangerous--all to be heard in the songs themselves. The Shanties in our selection cover a wide range--both British and American, with many different singing styles; there are nice concertina parts tucked away in there, too. I want each of you to listen to these carefully--and choose one or two on which to focus your visual projects. For this week, the download tracks are your point of departure, rather than video posts on YouTube (I've included a few below--but I want you to concentrate on the download). The shanties (or chanties or chanteys)  began as work songs aboard ship in the days of sail--in a way related to the field hollers we listened to earlier in the term. They reflect life at sea and the experience of being a forecastle hand--where much of the  work was done by group effort. You hear this in the cadence of the songs--the lead call, and then the response of the crew. Many of them come from the days of whaling.

Cattle Drive

COWBOY SONGS reflect the reality of life on the Great Plains in the 19th century. Following the Civil War, with the economy of the South in disarray, cattle drives from Texas up into the Midwest and Chicago were an immediate way of producing income. (The cows sold for  much more in the north, and could be shipped by recently established railway lines to points east.) The attendant folklore is an important party of the American past--including the songs, of course. (Get Along Little Doggie and The Old Chisolm Trail are two we can do--they're in your tan songsheets. Also listen to Willie Nelson's reprise, The Last Cowboy, on YouTube, below.) Several of the download selections come from the Harry Smith Anthology--plus four tracks from a contemporary interpreter, Skip Gorman--whose versions are wonderful, but can seem a little too nicely rounded off. To counter this, I went straight to Hank Williams--who's of course not a "cowboy" singer at all--but remains one of the greats--he could be included almost anywhere in Songs & Places (Note that Log Train is autobiographical on his part--and that Singing Waterfall is the Hank Williams song that John Fahey talks about in the chapter provided in the Reader, below. Lost Highway and Lonesome Whistle are simply two great songs...)

Home Ranch, Thomas Eakins (painted in 1888)

Cowboy songs (and cowboy life in general) became of course an ongoing source for the popular culture industry--with singers like Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers  and Dale Evans all popularizing them, along with "horse opera" Westerns (movies) and later television shows--so that over time it became very difficult to distinguish historical occurrence from its commercial representation. Or better said, the representations came to stand in for an imagined reality. (For the extreme here, see Sergio Leone's  always engaging "Italian" versions, like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. A short (and rare) video interview with Leone is included below.) Or any period film with John Wayne in one of his cowboy roles. The same popular treatments happened, but to a much lesser degree, with Sea Shanties (Johnny Depp notwithstanding). You might consider why this is so. Cattle drives are a thing of the past (soon enough the South recovered and Texas had its own railway hubs), whereas whaling (and commercial fishing in general) are ongoing issues. And consider this: trucker songs as the cowboy songs of today.

Gene Autry (publicity photo, 1940s)
John Wayne in Rio Bravo (1959)

In any case, the important thing is for you to listen to the songs, and to use them as a bridge into the worlds they come from--and to let this be reflected in your own projects.


 READING: For Weeks 12-13, read Nicholas Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, Reader pps. 165-86 and Greil Marcus' essay, "Envoi," Reader pps. 94-99 (from the edited collection, The Rose and the Briar). For a musician's take,  read the selection from John Fahey's (very personal) book, How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life, Reader pps. 205-230. The three readings together are intended to extend your understanding of the American folk tradition--a way of understanding where we've been, where we're going--and where you'll take your connections with this music beyond the Songs & Places class...

DOWNLOAD LINK: Sailors & Cowhands --

PRIMARY SONGS: Here are the songs from our primary S&P list, in your tan songsheets. (The ones I want you to know by heart--so sing them more--in the shower and on the road!)  Recorded versions are on you original S&P CD download from beginning of the semester.

Sea Shanties (for Week 12):
Greenland Whale Fishery
Blow Ye winds, Heigh Ho

Cowboy Songs
  (for Week 13)
Streets of Laredo
I Ride an Old Paint
The Old Chisolm Trail 

Get Along Little Dogies)

Here, for reference, are the song titles from the download for the remainder of the semester:

Sea Shanties (on your download):

Greenland Whale Fishery
Blow Ye Winds Heigh Ho
The Wild Goose  (in Louis Killen's unique version)
Paddy Doyle
The Banks Of Newfoundland
The Hog-Eye Man
The Black Ball Line
The Dark Eyed Sailor
In Scarborough Town
The Flying Cloud
The Coast of Peru
Lowlands Low
Jolly Roving Tar
Leave Her, Johnny
The Black Ball Line

Cowboy Songs (on your download):

Streets Of Loredo
I Ride an Old Paint  (Carl Sandburg's version)
A Cowboy's Wild Song To His Herd
Bandit Cole Younger
The Wild Wagoner
Cowboy Love Song
Little Joe The Wrangler's Sister Nell
The Lone Star Trail
Indian War Whoop
Amarillo Walt
Buffalo Gals

Hank Williams (on your download):

Lonesome Whistle (I Heard That Lonesome Whistle)
Lost Highway
The Log Train
Singing Waterfall

Hank Williams takes into the realm of Country Music (formerly known as Country and Western)--important it own right, but a commercial form more than a branch of folk music. (The distinction can be difficult, because Country songs reflect a world that in itself has very strong folk traditions. (Look carefully at Willie Nelson's face when he sings Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain...)



FOLLOWUPS--this is supplemental material for Weeks 12-13. If you look under performers' names, on YouTube, you'll find a wealth of material for both Cowboy Songs and for Sea Shanties (or Chanties or Chanteys). I recommend doing some of this. When you look under "cowboy" see also Gene Autry and Tex Ritter...and maybe even Roy Rogers and Dale Evans...but remember that "real" cowboy songs morphed pretty easily into "real imitation" cowboy songs. So, what else is new? That's why I gave you poet Carl Sandburg singing I Ride an Old Paint on our primary S&P CD. He CARED about the originals (even though he wasn't a cowboy either...)

For the Shanties, if you poke about (particularly with the English material) it's easier to find good contemporary versions.  Not as much money involved, for one thing (there was no "sea shanty" recording industry as with cowboy material--which went hand in hand with cowboy movies. ) Therefore, less kitsch. (Is this a valid equation?) There have always been pirate movies, too--but they've never been presented as the "essence" of the American spirit. (Again, images of John Wayne versus images of Johnny Depp.)

Some particular YouTubes to ampify the above:

Cowboy Songs:
Don Edwards - Barbara Allen - YouTube
(we watched this in class--what's important here is Edwards' interpretation of the song)
Alan Lomax - The Wild Rippling Water (western folk song) (Alan Lomax himself doing this one!)
THE OLD CHISHOLM TRAIL by Harry MAC McClintock - YouTube (audio only--the first "cowboy song" recording)
Tex Ritter - The Old Chisholm Trail - YouTube  (American television--Grand Ol'Opry)
Mike Seeger - "Old Chisholm Trail" - YouTube (a classic folk revival version)
Roy Rogers : Git Along Little Dogies ( 1940 ) - YouTube

▶The American West 06 - The Cattle Trail (1879) - from - YouTube  (From a documentary, with character--or with a character)
▶ The Last Cowboy Song - Ed Bruce & Willie Nelson - YouTube
and a  Very Rare Interview with Sergio Leone in 1984 - YouTube

And moving into Country:
▶ Hank Williams - I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow - live 1951 - remastered 2014 - YouTube 
Willie Nelson - Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
▶ Buck Owens & His Buckaroos - Crying Time - YouTube
▶ Cryin' Time by BUCK OWENS Original Version 1964 - YouTube 
George Jones & Tammy Wynette - Crying Time - YouTube 
 ▶ George Jones - White Lightning (with lyrics) - YouTube

Some Sea Shanties: 
Mobile Bay shanty audio alan lomax recording  (This is a wonderful song, hard to find--its in the Lomax songbooks.) 
▶ Way Down on Mobile Bay (CHANTY, WORK-SONG) - YouTube
Mobile Bay · Bob Walser (lyrics)
Sea shanty on anglo concertina - YouTube

▶ Louis Killen - The Wild Goose (sea shanty) - YouTube  (an early recording)
▶ Louis Killen at the Bridge Folk Club Nov 2008 - YouTube

Storm at Sea (video)


By the way,  storm videos (YouTube posts) will give you a very good sense of the extremes of life at sea. I'll include one here (note that the titles always use words like "huge" and "awesome.")
YouTube - Boat in a huge storm at sea

And at the opposite end of the scale, an extraneous wildcard--but also delightful:
▶ What's My Line? Gene Autry (1953) - YouTube

Gene Autry, What's My Line, television, 1953


Week 12: Chicago Blues supplement

As you know, there's an avoidance of documentaries in class--they tend towards the pre-packaged, and I want you to form you own understanding of the music and where it comes from. However,  this one from the BBC is particularly good, so I'll post it for you:

Right-pointing black triangle Chicago Blues Documentary (1972) - YouTube

We also discussed the connection between Muddy Waters and Chess Records--the label that made Chicago blues--with Muddy Waters in the forefront. Here's some background:

Right-pointing black triangle The Chess Records Story 01 - YouTube   (posted in segments)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week 12: City Blues: Chicago

Junior Wells performing at Theresa's Lounge (Marc PoKempener photo)

Key CHICAGO BLUES people include Muddy Waters (who arrived in Chicago in the 1940s), Howlin' Wolf, and John Lee Hooker (Hooker is associated with Detroit, but like Muddy Waters, was born in the South). And Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Johnny Shines... Otis Spann, Junior Wells plus many many more... It's important that you understand the dynamic between the two regions--the Mississippi Delta (Country Blues in general) and Chicago (Urban Blues in general)--and why the music sounds the way it does.

A rainy night outside Theresa's, MPK photo (late 1960s)

The important theme to concentrate on is this Mississippi-Chicago axis. (See Robert Palmer's book, Deep Blues.) Many of the "city" players had their start in the south (Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, for eample.) They took their downhome music north. Sometimes it worked the other way around. Johnny Shines, the Chicago blues artist  (who as a young man was influenced by and had traveled and played with Robert Johnson) is included here on a track called Too Wet To Plow--recorded later in his life, but at the same time a beautiful return to his southern roots.

Here's where it all started: 

Muddy Waters: Feel Like Goin' Home (Aristocrat, 1946)

Muddy Waters, Chicago,  late1940s

Reading.  Last week's reading continued to apply. And again, for a very different view of music made by Black Americans, see Albert Murray's Stomping the Blues (which treats a much wider musical panorama, with attendant ideas as to how we should understand "the blues..."). Alternatively, make use of the week to do some online research into the bios of Chicago blues people--Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and the rest.

Download (same as last week):
Last week's download includes songs for both weeks 11 and 12. Here are the tracks especially for this week:

Long Distance Call    Muddy Waters   (1913-1983)
Rollin' & Tumblin', Part Part 1   Muddy Waters
Honey Bee    Muddy Waters
Blues With A Feeling   Little Walter   (1930-1968)
Too Wet To Plow   Johnny Shines   (1915-1992)
I'm The Wolf    Howlin' Wolf   (1910-1976)
The Red Rooster (With False Start And Dialogue) Howlin' Wolf & English Rock musicians Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts)

Theresa's Lounge, Lost & Found, MPK photo

You can also refer back these selections mentioned in last week's post:

How Long, How Long Blues  Leroy Carr (1905-1935)  (Nashville, originally)
Jet Black Snake    Roosevelt Sykes   (1906-1983)
Hoodoo Lady    Memphis Minnie   (1897-1983)
Black Snake Blues    Victoria Spivey   (1906-1976)

and these two more recent tracks:

J.T. Blues   Big Joe Turner   (1911-1985)  (Kansas City "blues shouter")
Sad Street    Bobby "Blue" Bland   (b. 1930)  (Memphis, originally)

Chicago, MPK photo

There are myriad blues styles and blues players. Concentrate on Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf--then move on to some of the other tracks (Roosevelt Sykes, Victoria Spivey).

Also included, back-to-back, Joe Turner, originally a "blues shouter" from Kansas City, in a late-great performance (J.T. Blues)--and (also wonderful)  Bobby "Blue" Bland singing Sad Streets...

Big Joe Turner (Kansas City)

Plus one track from The Wild Tchoupitoulas (pure New Orleans), one from Sleepy LaBeef (of rockabilly fame), and one from the immensely curious (and powerful) Bahamian player, Joseph Spence. But Joseph Spence's music would be another story in itself...

There's also a good back-and-forth between traditional black blues musician Howlin' Wolf and a group of young English blues players. (Howlin' Wolf is basically teaching them how to play Little Red Rooster.)  I included this as a track on your download under Little Red Rooster.

Howlin' Wolf at Silvio's, Chicago (Hubert Sumlin on lead guitar, next to drummer)

Another cut on your download, Too Wet To Plow, by Johnny Shines--a beautiful song by a southern blues musician--Johnny Shines--who moved to Chicago to make his career, but later in life again recorded some of the Mississippi Blues songs he knew from his youth. Johnny Shines as a young man traveled with Robert Johnson--and learned his style. You'll hear it in the way he plays the song, recorded decades later.

Johnny Shines, Too Wet to Plow

Hey, there are many many good traditional blues players. The download gives you a mini cross section. But here I kept the list here simple so that you could concentrate on the Mississippi Delta / Chicago (rural blue/city blues) dynamic. Which is also an acoustic instrument/electric instrument dynamic.

Muddy Waters, 1960s

Some related YouTubes with video:

MUDDY WATERS -hoochie coochie man (1960) - YouTube 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Week 11: Blues Supplement: Lonnie Johnson and Victoria Spivey

Lonnie Johnson, 1927?

Right-pointing black triangle 'Careless Love' LONNIE JOHNSON (1928) Guitar Hero Legend Of Blues - YouTube

Right-pointing black triangle Lonnie Johnson - Careless Love (1965) - YouTube
Later version, from the time that Moe Asch recorded him for Folkways. Question: what was Lonnie Johnson's attiutude towards this belated attention?

Right-pointing black triangle Victoria Spivey & Lonnie Johnson - Dope Head Blues (1927) - YouTube
An early recording with Victoria Spivey. (By the way, the photo posted on YouTube is not Victoria Spivey!)

Victoria Spivey - Black Snake Blues - YouTube   VIDEO 1963 with lonnie johnson, sonnie boy williamson, willie dickson?

Right-pointing black triangle Eddie Lang & Lonnie Johnson Guitar Duet - Hot Fingers - YouTube
Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang (who recorded as Blind willie Dunn) made this and other records in the late 1920s. Note that Eddie Lang was a white musician, and the label chose to play down their working together (black musician and white musician). Johnson's single-line guitar solos were unique--and later influenced musicians like Charlie Christian (jazz guitar pioneer), Django Reinhardt and B.B. King. You can hear Lonnie Johnson in many of B.B King's riffs, who fully acknowledged their connection.

Right-pointing black triangle Lonnie Johnson - Another Night To Cry - YouTube  (VIDEO-TV)
Good to actually see him, in this 1960s TV video.

 Right-pointing black triangle Victoria Spivey - sings the Blues (1976) - YouTube
Here's a beautiful Victoria Spivey at 70 (listen carefully to the lyrics 1:45ff - and remember our in-class discussion--with cristina's comments--on Banks of the Ohio. Ending is equally powerful...
And here's a short NPR segment on Lonnie Johnson. It covers a lot, and some of the conversation is with Moe Asch, of Folkways Records, in the mid-1960s. Hearing Lonnie Johnson tell parts of his own story in his own way is a treasure. A great musician--and a truly modest man.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 11: Country Blues: The Delta

Son House

Reading: Leroy Jones: Blues People Negro Music in America. Reader pps. 117-146. Reread this again to see how your understanding has changed. It's an important book. New reading: Blues from the Delta. William Ferris, Reader pps. 147-164. Two other books also apply, both in UC  Library: Mary Beth Hamilton, In Search of the Blues  (2008), and the classic, Robert Palmer, Deep Blues (1982). Also--John Swed covers Alan Lomax's blues fieldwork extensively at  various points in his biography. (See Son House references in his index, especially p. 192-3.) One of Lomax's later books is The Land Where the Blues Began. For a very different view on this theme of Blues, read Albert Murray's Stomping the Blues (1972).

Songs (in your tan songset, and on the original S&P CD): 
Corrina, Corrina
Careless Love
Sweet Home  Chicago (great song--but it's not really a sing-along)


For the next two weeks we'll do the Blues. For Week 11, concentrate on Delta Blues--and Country Blues in general. For Week 12, concentrate on Chicago and the city blues tradition.

It's a very broad topic--but generally speaking...

You can think of the Blues in terms of it's rural origins, in the early 1900s--from the Mississippi Delta and elsewhere in the South--East Texas, for example. There's also the Piedmont blues from the Carolinas, and blues styles from places like Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis. Gradually the music was carried up the Mississippi River and by rail  to Chicago--where city blues took off. This shift followed emigration patterns--black southerners moving to northern cities for work beginning in the period of  WWI. Chicago blues came into its own during WWII and the post-war years. A very good book on this topic is Robert Palmer's Deep Blues. Note that the terms Country Blues, Delta Blues and Downhome Blues are used somewhat interchangeably.

Skip James

Key DELTA BLUES people include Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James, and slightly later, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters (in his very early years)--along with MANY others... Mississippi John Hurt is sometimes called a blues player (and he did record some key blues songs--his version of Stagger Lee is classic) but in many ways MJH represents an earlier Songster era. There's also the important early Texas blues player Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose recordings in the 1920s became widely popular. Other Texas players, from the next generation include Lighting Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. And not to forget the early players Memphis Minnie... and singer Victoria Spivey. (Later came Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Big Mama Thornton...)

Note that the Delta Blues/Country Blues are very different from recordings by Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ida Cox and others--primarily women, whose songs were performed with jazz band accompaniment and in many ways represent an extension of the vaudeville tradition. Country Blues emphasizes the solo voice with a solo acoustic guitar. The two answer each other--and the power of the music comes from this. (Listen to Charley Patton, Son House,  Skip James, Robert Johnson...) The Delta style is unique in the way the guitar is linked to the voice...always expressive, always from within...

Robert Johnson (recently discovered photo)

When southern blacks began moving north--first to places like Memphis and St. Louis, then to Chicago and Detroit, what was in essence a rural (and acoustic) music took on the attributes of the city--amplifiers, for one. Muddy Waters is key here. (We'll concentrate on Chicago  next week.)

Here are the tracks on your download that correspond to the Country and Delta Blues:

34 Blues     Charley Patton  (1887?-1934)
Lonesome Road Blues    Sam Collins (1887-1949)
Cross Road Blues    Robert Johnson  (1911-1938)
Come On In My Kitchen    Robert Johnson
Milkcow's Calf Blues    Robert Johnson
I'm So Glad   Skip James  (1902-1969)
Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues   Skip James
Parchman Farm Blues    Bukka White  (1909-1977)

And some related early recordings, also on your download (moving beyond Delta Blues):

How Long, How Long Blues  Leroy Carr (1905-1935)  (Nashville, originally, and a smoother stylist)
The World Is Going Wrong   Mississippi Sheiks  (recorded 1930's)
Jet Black Snake    Roosevelt Sykes   (1906-1983)
Hoodoo Lady    Memphis Minnie   (1897-1983)
Caught Me Wrong Again   Memphis Minnie
Black Snake Blues    Victoria Spivey   (1906-1976)

Memphis Minnie

Here are some key YouTube recordings for the Country Blues /Delta Blues tradition. Some include film/video (made in more recent years, obviously, mostly from the 1960s).

YouTube - Charley Patton - Spoonful Blues (Delta Blues 1929) (audio only)
'Some These Days I'll Be Gone' CHARLEY PATTON, 1929 Delta Blues Guitar Legend (audio) 

▶ Son House - Field Recordings 1941 & 1942 - YouTube (Delta Blues, audio only)
▶ Son House "Death Letter Blues" - YouTube  (video of Son House performing, 1960's)
Skip James - Devil Got My Woman - YouTube   (video, early 1960's)
YouTube - Skip James sings "Crow Jane" (video early 1960's)

Blind Lemon Jefferson, record advertisement

▶ Black Snake Moan - Blind Lemon Jefferson - YouTube (Texas Blues, audio)
▶ Lightin' Hopkins - YouTube  (Texas Blues, next generation--video, 1960's)
▶ Mance Lipscomb - Jack of Spades - YouTube (Mance Lipscomb playing Texas blues, video. Originally a Blind Lemon Jerfferson song.)
Mance Lipscomb - Motherless Children - YouTube (from the Les Blank film, 1972, a beautiful video clip.)
and finally, a very early Muddy Waters audio recording, from his Mississippi beginning's (this from Alan Lomax fieldwork):
McKinley Morganfield - Burr Clover Farm Blues - YouTube

The young Muddy Waters, in Mississippi

Next week--we'll follow Muddy Waters north, to Chicago and City Blues...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 10: Woody Guthrie

DOWNLOAD: Woody Guthrie on BOX:

READING: We can pick up again with the READER--there's a chapter included from Woody Guthrie's autobiography--Bound for Glory (pps. 57-91, with a good introduction by Studs Terkel). With drtawings by Woody Guthrie. Also see the section on his life, which starts on Reader p. 244. It's from Phil Hood, Artists of American Folk Music.  (There are other good sections from that book--on Pete Seeger, John Lomax, Odetta Carter Family, Elizabeth Cotten... I've included some of these in the Reader as well.)

Bound for Glory, cover, 1943

Also: Read this key chapter in John Szwed (Alan Lomax bio): Bohemian Folklorist (exploring the question of folksongs in the city), pps.141-167, particularly the section on Woody Guthrie in New York, pps. 157-167.  Posted on iDocs: 

SONGS: Here are the main songs for this week (all in your tan songsheets). They're ALL good songs to sing...

This Land Is Your Land  (also--compare the way Dylan recorded it early on, included in YouTube section, below)
Roll on Columbia
Blowin' Down the Road
we can also do
Do Re Mi
So Long It's Been Good to Know You (Dusty Old Dust)

Here are the (supplemental) titles on your Woody Guthrie download. I included some of his Dust Bowl ballads, (The Great Dust Storm, Tom Joad)  a "talking blues," his high-spirited version of Go Tell Aunt Rhody, some topical songs (Philadelphia Lawyer, Lindberg, and Jarama Valley) plus several other--to give you a good taste. There's of course lots more on YouTube, but this is a start (and the sound will be better...)

The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)
John Henry
Talking Dust Bowl Blues
Dusty Old Dust (So Long, It's Been Good To Know You)
Go Tell Aunt Rhody
Dust Bowl Blues
Blowin' Down The Road (I Ain't Going To Be Treated This Way)
Tom Joad - Part I
Pastures Of Plenty
Tom Joad - Part II
Do Re Mi
Dust Bowl Refugee
Philadelphia Lawyer
Gypsy Davy
Hobo's Lullaby
Roll On Columbia
Jarama Valley
This Land Is Your Land
When That Great Ship Went Down
Long John

Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax,and friends, New York, early 1940s

There are a number of great YouTube things as well. The first with Woody Guthrie live in an old film clip. These film clips of him are apparently rare. Can you find better? The first two are for LOOKING (so watch them carefully!!!); the next three, for listening:
Woody Guthrie performing, film fragment   
This Machine Kills Fascists  (A short Summary of the Year 1941). Sets Woody Guthrie's work in a historical context--what he (and his peers) were dealing with in the world. Good visuals...
This Land Is Your Land. Woody Guthrie's own version

Bob Dylan - (Rare The Minneapolis Party Tape) - This Land Is Your Land - YouTube 
The Bob Dylan's version I wanted you to hear is no longer on YouTube  (although I'm sure you can find it elsewhere). The one above (even earlier, from Minneapolis in 1961, will give you a good idea of how he did the song.)
Red River Valley. Woody Guthrie, early Asche recording. Compare with out S&P version (The Texian Boys, who were--in case it's not been mentioned--John Lomax and friends. I consider the Lomax version classic in terms of the meaning of the lyrics--one of our most beautiful songs. Woody Guthrie's version is sprightlier. Why do you think this is so?

Woody Guthrie's family, Okemah, Oklahoma

QUESTIONS: As with Leadbelly, there's a lot of social history in Woody Guthrie's songs--and in his life (he was born in Okemah, Oklahoma  and grew up with the music of that place--it was in him all throughout his life, even as he moved into and through MANY other social and artistic worlds. This is probably the key thing to consider: Woody Guthrie's heritage--and his life--as giving form to his songs. How did he become "a spokesman for the common man?"  (Oklahoman, vagabond, hobo, musical wanderer, hollywood radio show host, then new york, the recordings with moe asche (founder of folkways records), friendships with leadbelly, sonny terry & brownie mcgee and cisco huston, plus his influence on pete seeger (who loved the music, but didn't come from woody's "real" country background) and other subsequent "folk singers." And I left out his career in the Merchant Marine (his ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic during WWII) and the songs that came from his drawings and paintings...AND his jaunty autobiography (Bound for Glory). 

Woody Guthrie, Eric Shaal photo, New York, 1943

Monday, October 20, 2014

Weeks 8-9 Schedule Reminders

Week 8. No class this week (Thursday Oct 23). spend time with Harry Smith's 1952 Anthology, as described in my class blog. see last section in our reader for Harry Smith's original notes on the songs, published with the Anthology.

Week 9. For following week (Thursday Oct 28): we're doing LEADBELLY! We'll look at your Leadbelly projects, and I want you to know all the ins-and-outs of Leadbelly's life--give it some thought!   I'll also want to hear your comments on the Anthology.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 9: Leadbelly

Leadbelly & Woody Guthrie

DOWNLOAD: Leadbelly Songs

READING: Start the Alan Lomax biography, read John Szwed's introduction (pps. 1-4), and his two Leadbelly chapters: Road Scholars (pps. 31-58) and The Saga of Lead Belly (pps. 59-76). Together these will give you a good understanding the Lomax recordings--and what they went through to make them (including the unwieldy recording set up they carried in the trunk of their car). And the beginnings of an understanding of Huddie Ledbetter himself... (The Szwed book, Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World, is availailble in the UC Libraries (Main and Music). I believe it is available online--so that you can read this material on your laptop. Will check into a source for this--iDocs seems to have it posted: 

On the road, 1934--the Lomax car trunk

I kept this week's download a bit more manageable in size, but you'll still need to be selective as to what songs you concentrate on. Remember that our original S&P set has these three (they're basic):

Rock Island Line
Goodnight Irene
Midnight Special

The ones below are in the Leadbelly supplement download for this week. They're all good, of course, but I've picked out a few favorites. In particular, I want you to consider the words Leadbelly uses for Take This Hammer. The sequence of the verses as well...

The Gallis Pole
Duncan And Brady (Acapella)
Take This Hammer  (lyrics in gray songset--give them some thought)
Grey Goose
In The Pines
Bring A Little Water Sylvie (beautiful song to do together)
Corn Bread Rough
We Shall Be Free (with Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, and Sonny Terry)
Let It Shine On Me
Blind Lemon
Sukey Jump

Leadbelly, cover of Life magazine, 1935

Here are some additional suggestions:

* Consider the chorus in Midnight Special. What WAS the Midnight Special? How did this image figure in Leadbelly's life? Look into this.
* With Rock Island Line, there's some important history: the song was subsequently covered (basically stolen) by the English Skiffle Band figure, Lonnie Donnegan (in the 1950's), who  recorded--and later copyrighted--the song as his own. Look into this. There are videos of the skiffle version on YouTube. (The same thing happened with Elizabeth Cotten's Freight Train--you can look into the details here as well.) We can discuss this phenomenon in general...
* In the Pines and Bring a Little Water, Sylvie are just plain beautiful songs...

Also, and VERY important--as you look for videos of Leadbelly, as always with YouTube it's a question of how to sort through the vast array. Here are three that I think are IMPORTANT to pay close attention to (I WANT YOU ALL TO DO THIS!):

1.  Leadbelly /  segment from the Gordon Parks film (1976)   
It's well worth watching how Gordon Parks (the distinguished African American photographer and film maker) depicts Leadbelly. There's a lot of "attitude" here--and it's worth paying close attention to. Ask yourselves, why is this film almost impossible to find...?

Leadbelly in Gordon Parks' film version, 1976

 2.  The Leadbelly "Newsreel"
In which the "story" of Leadbelly is told--with footage of John Lomax and Leadbelly acting their parts, and a narrative which stands in relief to Gordon Parks' treatment. Note that the script here was written by the March of Time newsreel producers, not John Lomax. Consider the audience--in other words, who was this for? Newsreel features were common at the time--shown in theaters before the movies. (The newsreel images are fictional--a picture follows of the actual Angola Penitentiary in a period photo.)

Leadbelly and John Lomax, from the 1935 March of Time newsreel

Angola Penitentiary (Angola, LA), period photo

3.  And finally, Leadbelly singing Goodnight Irene (with Martha Promise Ledbetter)
I just found this recently--it's a gem. Martha Promise was Leadbelly's wife...! The setting is "set up" of course--how could it not be--but their personalities shine through...

Leadbelly and Martha Promise, Wilton, Conn. 1935

A good question throughout--in fact, the main question I'd like to consider--who WAS Leadbelly? The man himself--and the figure he presented to the world (the several figures). How do we come to our own terms with the question? And in relation to Mississippi John Hurt? They both left what was home--at very different times in their lives, and under very different circumstances. How is this reflected in their characters--and in the character of their songs?


One more thought: Leadbelly's late recordings, from 1948 (made in  New York, in his apartment with Martha during those last years) are also worth looking into. (Where Woody Guthrie slept on the couch for something like a year.) They may not show Leadbelly in full vigor, but each one has a ranging introduction in his own voice--and these are priceless. Listen to his version of Goodnight Irene here--even just the beginning...

The Last Sessions
You can access these on the Music Library's Streaming Audio Databases, under American Song:
Search for Leadbell's Last Sessions and you'll find all the recordings. (There's a wealth of earlier Leadbelly material in this archive as well. Poke around!) I'm sure that at least some of it is posted on YouTube as well.