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November 27, 2008

A Poet

A poet is someone
Who can pour light into a cup,
Then raise it to nourish
Your beautiful parched, holy mouth.


November 26, 2008

Mississippi John Hurt - 2 Albums

Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the legendary Mississippi John Hurt. His graceful syncopated fingerpicking and gentle voice have turned the hearts and ears of many. While mostly enjoyed by blues-lovers, Hurt was always classified as a songster: his style and repertoire dated back to the 19th Century, and he played his songs pretty much the same way every time (where as 'true' blues artists were said to be playing whatever they felt in the moment). Most people nowadays don't really care about such distinctions, which is good 'cause it certainly didn't make a whiff of difference to the musicians.

These two recordings predate his much better-known recordings for Vanguard, and they have a raw edge to them that the later recordings lack (not that those albums were overly pollished, but, you know...). The fact that some of these songs do differ from later versions show that in fact he was improvising and changing the music as he went. Take that, vampiric volklorists!

According to a biography of his life John Hurt learn to love and appreciate music and guitar playing from William H Carson, a man infatuated with his teacher at the St. James School, located in Avalon, Mississippi. John Hurt stated, "I wasn't allowed to bother Mr. Carson's guitar. I would wait until he feel asleep at my house, then I would slip his guitar into my room and try to play. There I learned to play the guitar at the age of nine years old. After that, my mother bought me a second hand guitar at the price of $1.50! 1 can tell you there was no more beautiful sound than my own guitar music. I was playing for country dances at the same time working very hard on a farm new Avalon Mississippi."

Avalon Blues
Review by Cub Koda
This is the first in a multiple-volume series devoted to the Piedmont recordings Hurt made upon his rediscovery in the early '60s. They capture him with his playing and singing still intact, untouched by the world around him, a world that had changed so much since he initially recorded back in the '20s. Many of his best-known tunes are here -- "Candy Man Blues," "Salty Dog," "Spike Driver Blues," "Louis Collins," "Spanish Fandango," and the title track -- and although Hurt was to re-record them for other labels, these versions are as fine as any. There's really no one else in the blues with the gentle wistfulness of John Hurt, and this collection makes a wonderful addition to anyone's blues or folk music collection.

Mississippi John Hurt - Avalon Blues
Year: 1963
Label: Rounder
you salty dog.
mp3 320kbps | w/ cover | 75mb

Worried Blues
Review by Ron Wynn
This second of two sessions devoted to Mississippi John Hurt's first recordings followed the same pattern as its predecessor. Hurt did mostly blues, with an occasional spiritual number like "Oh Mary Don't You Weep." He sang in a fragile, yet powerful manner, backing his vocals on acoustic guitar in an equally simple, gentle manner with lines and riffs that often surpassed passages with far more intricate voicings. These two CDs restored into public circulation very valuable recordings.

Mississippi John Hurt - Worried Blues
Year: 1963
Label: Rounder
don't you weep.
mp3 320kbps | w/ covers | 92mb

and, apparently, there's a museum and blues festival in his hometown of Avalon, Mississippi. Donating to them would be a better way of supporting his community & music than buying the albums, methinks.

To all you old blues lovers

As I logged into blogger today, I noticed that apparently, this blog has 5 'Followers'. One of them, it turns out, just started a blog on Sunday.

Check it out: Stomp that Thing

Looks promising!

and Gadaya from Times Ain't Like They Used to Be has two great new blogs: Old Weird America and The World's Jukebox

oh, and I never mentioned it but Delta-Slider is a great new blog for guitar fans.


November 22, 2008

Rev. Gary Davis - Ragtime Guitar

We haven't heard any ragtime for a while. It was one of the more recent popular American forms before the recording industry, so it doesn't have quite the ancient quality of traditional pieces that are rooted in Africa or England or colonial times. But there is a quality of movement to it, an aliveness that keeps you on your toes, never staying in one chord for too long. It's one of those musical forms (like Choro) that sits equally well in classical and folk traditions. Being blind, you can bet Gary Davis never read the sheet music for these pieces though, and you know he was improvising as he went too. This music is every bit as idiosyncratic, virtuosic, dynamic, and complex as Joseph Spence's. You can see why he was so revered as a teacher -- a whole school of guitar playing developed in the 60s and 70s based on Gary Davis' ragtime guitar pieces, which he rarely performed, using them instead as teaching tools for his guitar students. You'll hear a very raw quality to these pieces, and the recording as well. It may not have the smooth precision of Stefan Grossman or Woody Mann, but it has a life that those more technical players never attained.

For more Gary Davis, see the post in the archives

Rev. Gary Davis - Ragtime Guitar
Label/Year: Kicking Mule 106 (1974) / Transatlantic 244 (1971)
rec. 1962 - 1970 at Rev. Davis' house

Side A:
- Cincinnati Flow Rag
- West Coast Blues
- Buck Rag
- St. Louis Tickle
- Two Step Candyman
Side B:
- Walkin' Dog Blues
- Italian Rag
- C-Rag
- Waltz Time Candyman
- Make Believe Stunt

from vinyl | mp3 256 cbr | 61mb
get your candy

note: i'm trying out rapidspread, which gives more options than sharebee. but it may go the way of massmirror and shareonall, so whenever you download, post the direct link in the comments and then we'll have a backup if rapidspread goes belly-up.

originally posted by sussex i think. big thanks!

November 21, 2008

Joseph Spence - 2 Albums

I've written extensively about the utterly unique, stupendous, and dumbfounding music of Joseph Spence. So I won't write much this time, but if you haven't heard his music, go and read my other posts on him, and then forget all the words and just listen, because the music really has to be heard to be believed. Actually, hearing it, you still probably won't believe all those sounds are coming from just one man and his guitar.

As one Amazon customer wrote:
The music is absolutely insane. It has no equal. Old Joseph Spence, god bless him, was like Sun Ra with an acoustic guitar. Even the grouchiest customers would leave with a wild gleeful smile on their faces.

Joseph Spence - Happy All the Time
Year: 1994
Label: Elektra

Waxed for Elektra in 1964, this has better sound than the Folkways recordings and offers some of Spence's most percussive playing.

mp3 160kbps | w/ cover | 46mb
get happy

Joseph Spence - Glory
Year: 1991
Label: Rounder

Few musicians have as unique a sound as Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence. Sounding a bit like an old Delta bluesman swept out to sea, Spence grunts and groans his way through his mostly religious song catalog like Howlin' Wolf crossed with Popeye, all the while picking out amazing polyrhythmic patterns on his acoustic guitar in a style that is so idiosyncratic that he has actually been called a folk version of Thelonious Monk. A true folk artist, Spence made few allowances for the commercial music world, and his body of work is as singular as any ever recorded. This collection of spiritual material was recorded in the field by Guy Droussart in Nassau, and it is typical of Spence's performances, alternating solo pieces with tracks where he is joined by Edith, Geneva and Raymond Pinder, and while the sound can be a bit unnerving to the novice listener, a closer examination reveals a wonderful deconstruction and reassembling of these hymns, all laced with Spence's eccentric, jagged guitar runs. Highlights include "Jordan Chilly River," "Down by the Riverside," and "Out on the Rolling Sea," although everything here is of a piece, cut from the same wonderful cloth.

mp3 320kbps | w/ cover | 115mb
part 1 | part 2

big thanks to Op for the albums.

and in case you haven't been over to Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, you'll find some more Spence there too.

November 19, 2008


Well thanks, everyone, for your comments in the discussion on ethics. It's probably the best discussion on the subject I've been a part of, and I learned a lot. Though the discussion's certainly not ended, I've come to some clarity on the whole subject.

The points raised lead me to consider that we may be moving towards a new system of music production, distribution, and consumption. A system based on responsibility and ethics rather than tightly-controlled market capitalism. Whereas the old system looked like "I want this music, so I have to buy it so I can enjoy it," the new system looks more like "I love this music and respect the artist. I want to support the artist as a way of showing thanks and making sure they can continue making it." The new system rewards quality rather than marketing, since it comes from a place of gratitude rather than desire.

Of course, it may be a frightening prospect to musicians and record labels, because there is no control: if people don't want to pay, they don't have to, and they can get the music just the same. But of course nothing is being taken from the artist; data is being copied, so all they lose is potential sales (while gaining potential fans). Because ultimately, music is sound, and sound is vibration, and you can't own vibration. But musicians are people, and people need to eat and be housed and express themselves, which in our society requires money (or goods/services exchange). So, it is our opportunity in this generation to show that a new system based on trust, gratitude, and understanding can be more effective than the old one.

Here are some 2 particularly poignant excerpts from the discussion:

" Your blog is one of my favorite places to find out what soul is, how people in far-away places relate to life, and to otherwise make connections with myself and with my fellow humans teetering on the brink of habitat eradication. Thank you so much for the education and for the joy!" - Joe
"more to the point on ethics is that there are many millions of people with far too much leisure time on their hands. I myself thanks to the new wonders of high-speed have amassed more music than I could ever listen to in my lifetime, beyond making time for my own music-producing capacities. think of the huge potential for time and energy applied, if all those privileged people with time to kill downloading music would commit their concerns about ethics to real-world activities like nuclear disarmament, saving watersheds, food security, restructuring government etc." -psb
It's easy to get lost in the vast sea of buried musical treasure out there. Remember, while there's nuggets, plenty of it would be best left buried, lest it bury us. I've wasted away plenty of my precious youth in pursuit of music and art that speaks to some kind of feeling (joy, sorrow, passion, rage, love, etc.), rather than experiencing life and feeling those things for myself. Pleasures of the senses, however majestic they are, can be a distraction from the experience of the divine self/world. So hopefully, having recognized this, we'll all be able to enjoy the pleasures of music and learning about distant cultures and times, and allow the music and knowledge to bring us together as people in a planet, for we have important work to do, and it should be done joyfully.

So, having said all that, I will get back to posting, as long as I can do so in a healthy way. And I may post non-musical things from time to time as well. It's about expanding horizons, right?

And as for all of you, thanks for your insights and comments. It's great to be reminded why I do this. I hope you've gotten as much from it as I have, and I hope you're balancing music-consumption with life-engagement better than I have. If not, go take a walk, find a tree, sit down, and listen. They make music too...

Oh, and the Seamus Ennis album is back. Hopefully it'll stay.

The Satisfied Sea-rat.

November 12, 2008

A discussion on ethics

Recently, it was brought to my attention that the all the links for the Seamus Ennis album recently posted were dead. This is troubling, because for the first time, there has been a complaint to the file-hosting servers, and they have removed the file. Now, I have a lot of goodies to give to you folks, but it really doesn't make sense for me to upload an album if it will just be deleted by someone else -- it's a waste of my time and theirs.

So, it seems as though a discussion is necessary before we can move on. I fully invite community participation in this: the more viewpoints we can have on this matter the better, and I'm certainly open to other opinions that I may not have considered. So please leave your thoughts in the comments section, but keep it civil, folks.

It seems the first point to be discussed here is one of ethics. Specifically, what is the morality of me distributing albums to which I do not own the copyright, if my stated intention is to support the artists?

I remember a story about how in 1969, Rolling Stone magazine offered to send a copy of Mississippi Fred McDowell's album I Do Not Play No Rock and Roll for free to anyone who wrote to them and asked. And this single act probably caused more rock and roll fans to discover the blues (and subsequently purchase more blues albums, attend concerts, etc.) than any other act of marketing. [i may have some of the details wrong on this account, but you get the point]

Now ultimately, my goal is to support living musicians and to enhance people's enjoyment of life through the discovery of music. In my own small way, of course. So I consider a lot of factors before I make a post.

Firstly, there is the question of quality. There's a hell of a lot of music out there, and life is precious, so I don't waste time on second-rate music just for the purpose of fulfilling a collection.

Secondly, there is the issue of exposure. I ask myself, is this artist/album familiar to the sort of people who would enjoy it? Because it makes no sense for me to be promoting and reviewing artists/albums that are already promoted by other means. I love the Beatles and Frank Zappa, but there are whole blogs dedicated to them.

Thirdly, there is the question of availability. I ask myself: Is this album still in print? Is this album offered anywhere else in the blogosphere, or is this artist well-represented by other albums on other blogs? Because it's senseless to double-up and distribute things that are easily available in other channels. I do sometimes post albums that are still in print, but most of them you'd be hard-pressed to find in your local store, in whatever part of the world you live.

Lastly, there is the question, who will benefit from my post, and who will be harmed? And this is where it gets into speculation, a rather fuzzy science at best. If the artist is dead, I feel this is mostly a no-brainer; while it's nice to support widdows & descendents, it's ridiculous to be giving money to dead musicians while there's living, working ones that need that money to go on making music. The exception to this rule comes when there's a non-profit organization taking the money that would go to the deceased, and doing something useful with it.

If the artist is alive, it's more tricky; the deciding factor is, will the publicity generated by my blog offset the potential loss of sales for the musician? I consider this question quite a lot, and I only post albums when I think my post will help people to get excited about an artist they've never encountered before, and perhaps even seek out and purchase other albums by that artist. Now, whether people do this is up to them, and I support free will in this matter, assuming people have the intelligence to realize that if they don't support the musicians they love, then those musicians won't be able to make the music we all love. But I also make sure that if I'm posting an album by a working musician, an inspired listener won't be able to find all their other albums on other blogs; this is the counterpoint to the second issue: availability.

I'm also aware that record companies need to survive if they're going to support artists and distribute their music. Now, some record companies are huge monsters that give a pittance of the sales to the artists, and some are genuinely supportive, operating from the same love of music that drives my blogging. So, to that end, I try not to distribute albums from small, cool independent labels, and I try not to distribute too many albums from any one of the larger cool labels. And, generally, I don't care about the huge labels, or those who used to be independent and now have been bought out.

Personally, I have become a much more conscious and avid consumer of music thanks to "music piracy". You see, because of music sharing, my interest in and exposure to music has grown 100-fold. If I had to pay $15 every time I saw something interesting and wanted to give it a listen, my musical horizons would have stayed pretty limited. By indulging and supporting my curiosity, the pirates of the inter-seas have made of me a musical connisseur, where once there was just passing interest. Forums and 'sharity' blogs have particularly helped to rouse my interest in unknown artists and forgotten genres. And, since the big-names are readily available for piracy, the obvious choice is to support the lesser-known and local artists.

In fact, I feel that by distributing the music of Son House and Blind Willie Johnson, I may be helping to open up a whole new world of experience for someone who is used to more polished music, and they may begin to appreciate the raw emotions of flamenco music or Greek rebetica. By posting Harry Partch and Tom Cora, I may turn a few people on to a world of improvisational and microtonal avantgarde music. Growth comes through exposure and experience.

Another story, more recent. Radiohead, one of the most intelligent contemporary bands, released their most recent album for download from their website before it was released in physical form. Radiohead allowed users to pay however much they liked. They made £10 Million or so, on an average of £7.00 or so per user. And none of that money got taken by a middle-man in the form of a retail store or a record company. Now, Radiohead is a big-name band with millions of fans. But the principle works the same for small-name artists. And it shows that people who download can be generous, especially if the artist is generous first.

You see, Radiohead realized that even if you issue an album conventionally, even with copy-protection embedded in the CD, it still gets posted on the internet within a week of release. So why not embrace the new system of music-distribution that is evolving, and experiment to see if it has an equal or greater capacity to support the artists than the (outdated?) distribution system of record labels and retail shops.

Remember, the music industry tried to sue radio on the same grounds of copywright infringement. Eventually, it learned to work with radio's inherent marketing capabilities. And the existence of recorded music itself almost destroyed the profession of composer (the music industry now has to give money to a fund that supports living composers).

Now, those are all issues of rights, morality, and money. I don't pretend to have definitive answers to them, but I've tried to demonstrate my thoughts around them. I invite responses that confirm or contradict what I've said.

Another question, which I think is even larger, is: how does all this downloading of music affect my life? I've talked about why I post. But I am really interested to know why you read this blog, and why you download the albums. Is it just a fulfillment of desire, a kind of instant gratification responding to my description of how tasty the music is? Is it filling a hole in you're life? Personally, I think it has something to do with me being afraid of really sitting with myself in silence and feeling. But that's my own issue. It may be different for you.

It's interesting to note that 100 years ago, 90% of Americans played an instrument. Now only 10% do. Most of us just play the CD player now, or the computer. Is this acquisition of music really enhancing your life, or just satisfying an urge to collect? The feeling that it's free, and you're 'saving' money, or that it won't be around forever so you'd better get it now? Or, is this music genuinely helping you to learn, feel, and grow?

Take a moment to really consider this.

Your answers to these questions will determine if and how I continue this blog, so please leave a comment. I'd love to post more music, but I feel we need to all be on the same page, before we can move on.

And to whomever complained about copywrite infringement to the filehosting servers: please, in the future, offer your complaint directly to me. It doesn't do any good to beat around the bush: if there's something I'm doing that you feel is wrong, I should know about it. It really does no good to try to shut down activity like this without appealing to the intelligence and innate sense of ethics of bloggers; if you get rid of public channels, pirates will move to private ones.

November 5, 2008

Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang - Stringin' the Blues

...pieced together from various sources

Venuti claimed to have been born aboard a ship as his parents emigrated from Italy, though many believe he was simply born in Philadelphia. Later in life he said that he was born in Italy in 1896 and that he came to the U.S. in 1906. He became THE great jazz violinist: the father of jazz violin. Eddie Lang (who was also known as Blind Willie Dunn) was a boyhood friend of Venuti, and was the first great jazz guitarist (some say the best-ever rhythm guitarist). They preceded and influenced the legendary duo of Django Reinhardt and Stephanne Grappelli, which means they are at the root of a massive genre (gypsy jazz / hot swing).

Venuti was also a legendary practical joker. Every Christmas he sent Wingy Manone, a one-armed trumpet player, the same gift--one cufflink. He once called a couple dozen bass players with an alleged gig and asked them to show up with their instruments at a busy street corner just so he could view the resulting chaos. He always brought cheap violins to his bar-gigs because his favorite thing was to start fights, smash his violin over someone's head, and jump out the window of the bar. He is said to have chewed up a violin he borrowed from bandleader Paul Whiteman, when still on stage after his own performance with Whiteman's band had finished.

Eddie Lang introduced the guitar to a wider audience and forever changed the way that people listened to music. And he was the first Jazz guitar virtuoso. A boyhood friend of Joe Venuti, Lang took violin lessons for 11 years but switched to guitar before he turned professional in 1924 with the Mound City Blue Blowers. He was soon in great demand for recording dates, both in the jazz world and in pop settings. His sophisticated European sounding chord patterns made him a unique accompanist, but he was also a fine soloist. Lang was a versatile player who could back blues singers, play classical music, and jam with the greatest musicians of his day. He was the house guitarist at Okeh from 1926 to 1933. Using the pseudonym of Blind Willie Dunn, Lang often teamed up with Lonnie Johnson and recorded some of the most dazzling guitar duets you'll hear.

Lang died in 1933 as the result of a botched tonsillectomy, which had been taken at the urging of his friend, Bing Crosby. Venuti fell into obscurity in the 1940s and '50s, but was rediscovered in the 60s and made some great albums, some of which will find their way onto this blog eventually... if you have any of his later period albums please let me know. I'd love to hear them.

Eddie Lang & Joe Venuti - Stringing the Blues
Release Date 1963
Recording Date 1927-1933
Label Columbia
Time 96:21

1 Goin' Places - Lang, Venuti - 2:58
2 Doin' Things - Lang, Venuti - 2:52
3 Perfect - Lang, Signorelli - 3:04
4 Cheese and Crackers - Lang, Venuti - 2:59
5 Stringin' the Blues - Lang, Venuti - 2:37
6 I'm Somebody's Somebody Now - Johnson, Sherman, Silver - 3:09
7 Two-Tone Stomp - Johnson, Lang - 3:03
8 Beatin' the Dog - Venuti - 2:41
9 The Wild Dog - Lang, Venuti - 2:45
10 Dinah - Akst, Lewis, Young - 2:51
11 In the Bottle Blues - King Oliver, Lang, Williams - 2:52
12 Wild Cat - Lang, Venuti - 2:59
13 Guitar Blues - Johnson, Lang - 3:21
14 Bull Frog Moan - Johnson, Lang - 3:19
15 Jet Black Blues - Johnson - 3:04
16 Penn Beach Blues - Lang, Venuti - 2:45
17 It's Right Here for You - Bradford - 3:10
18 You Can't Cheat on a Cheater - Dorsey, Napoleon - 2:59
19 Tiger Rag - DaCosta, Edwards, LaRocca ... - 2:52
20 A Handful of Riffs - Johnson, Lang - 3:07
21 Running Ragged - Hayton, Lang, Trumbauer ... - 3:10
22 Pardon Me, Pretty Baby - Klages, Rose - 3:07
23 I'll Never Be the Same - Kahn, Malneck, Signorelli - 3:12
24 I've Found a New Baby - Palmer, Williams - 3:09
25 Little Girl - Henry, Hyde - 3:00
26 I Got Rhythm - Gershwin, Gershwin - 3:15
27 I Wanna Count Sheep (Till the Cows Come Home) - Little, Young - 3:25
28 Church Street Sobbin' Blues - Cowley, Lada, Williams - 3:03
29 Vibraphonia - Rollini - 2:49
30 Hey! Young Fella - Fields, McHugh - 3:07
31 Some of These Days - Brooks - 2:37
32 Raggin' the Scale - Claypoole - 3:00

old rip from vinyl | m4a (aac) 192 | w/cover | 67 & 68mb
get disc 1 and disc 2

more to come someday. post any you have in the comments!