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May 2, 2009

Woody Mann, Jo-Ann Kelly, Son House - Been Here & Gone


This CD is the stuff of legend. Or at least it would be if more people knew about it. Which is why I post, dont'cha know. It is actually a mixture of 3 different recording sessions: you have the last recordings of Son House before his death, with Woody Mann playing guitar; then you have the cuts from Jo Ann Kelly's 1974 album on Blue Goose (which also featured John Fahey among others), again with Woody Mann on guitar; then you have new solo guitar instrumentals by Woody, further exploring the moods and concepts of Son's and Jo Ann's songs, transmogrified to tie the whole thing together.

The tracks with Son House are undescribable. You know how Johnny Cash's last recordings capture something unearthly, from a man who knew he was on death's door? Well, it's like that with Son House, except he's a hell of a lot more soulful and haunting than Cash. He sings pieces here that he never recorded before, and there is a perpetually unhinged quality that refuses to be aestheticized - a bit like Rembrant's self-portraits when he got really old and his eyes started failing, or Goya's black paintings from his final years, deaf and exiled. There is almost a feeling that Son is singing from the other side - behind the veil, beyond the vale of death.

Jo Ann Kelly is in top form as well, and Woody's accompaniment is stellar. These recordings are easily a match for any old blues duets from the 78-rpm era. Woody's solo pieces are slow boilers fraught with tension and abounding in moodiness. They are probably the most haunting pieces he's ever crafted, among the most elegiac tunes in the history of steel-string guitar music. After hearing these pieces, you'll probably become obsessed and hunt down Woody's other releases or his instructional videos if you're a guitarist. I did.

And since I've already talked a lot about Jo Ann Kelly and Son House in previous posts, here's a bit on Woddy:

Stefan Grossman and Woody Mann had a lot in common. They both studied under the legendary Rev. Gary Davis as kids, and they became his best students. They mastered a number of fingerstyle blues styles, and are among the few modern guitarists who truly understand the subtle dynamic qualities that make the real country blues come to life. But while Grossman stayed at that level, collecting thousands of 78s and learning how to sound just like them, Woody went further. Having perfected the blues, he wasn't content to rest on his laurels and just teach or concertize; instead, he plunged into the most difficult arena: jazz.

He studied under Lennie Tristano, who took him through the rigors of jazz training - exacting scales, imbibing jazz theory and inspiring improvisation. Now he has a teaching position at Juilliard school - one of the top schools for classical musicians in the world.

Woody Mann bio:
Woody Mann received his first musical schooling in the living room of Rev. Gary Davis, the now legendary blues, gospel, and ragtime guitarist. Though Davis died in 1972, his guitar mastery proved to be an indelible influence on his young student and friend. The passion, energy and artistry of Davis’ early work became a lasting touchstone for Mann as he embarked on his own musical journey.

Mann soon went on to perform with modern day blues musicians John Fahey, British great Jo-Ann Kelly, as well as early masters of the genre, such as Bukka White and Son House. Mann complemented the tutelage of Rev. Davis with formal training at New York’s celebrated Juilliard School. In addition, Mann completed a period of intense study with noted Chicago-born pianist Lennie Tristano, who introduced him to the world of jazz and its infinite possibilities. During this time, Mann’s early musical grounding began to blossom into an improvisational style all his own.

Since then, Mann has pursued a rich and diverse career, which ranges from playing with jazz great Attila Zoller, accompanying songwriter Dori Previn, and teaching guitar to legendary recording artist Paul Simon. Mann has recorded extensively and performed everywhere from the orchestra pits of Broadway to festivals, clubs and concert stages worldwide. Mann’s reach as a teacher, producer, and writer has been just as sweeping; he has been a faculty member at the New School in New York City, conducted master workshops throughout the world, founded International Guitar Seminars and Acoustic Sessions Inc, and schooled countless guitarists through his acclaimed books and DVDs including the series “The Art of Acoustic Blues Guitar,” “The Complete Robert Johnson,” “The Blues Fakebook,” and the recently published “Lisboa – the Guitar Of Woody Mann,” a collection of his original compositions.

Mann’s remarkable ease and grace with which he blends a wide pallet of influences was summed up in a recent Acoustic Guitar Magazine review of his recent recording “Road Trip”… “Mann has absorbed so many guitar styles that he can change moods on a dime, weaving lyrical single string lines and chord harmonies that can take his tunes across the musical divides between genres...”

Mann has not forgotten those early lessons in the Rev. Davis’ living room, however, or the jazz traditions that were his wellspring. He has since become one of the world’s most renowned guitar masters and song story tellers - updating the past with his own unique contemporary improvisational style.
– The London Times

"A brilliant convergence of guitar and song... completely original."
– Village Voice, New York

"This is one of those names that schould be uttered only in hushed tones. Not only was he taught by the peerless guitar picker the Rev Gary Davis, but Mann has played with Son House, Bukka White and John Fahey... In between giving lessons to Paul Simon and accompanying Dori Previn, he has also managed to cut some dazzling music...Don’t miss a chance to see him; you are unlikely to hear anything- or anyone – better in the fields that Mann has chosen to master.” – The London Times.

You can hear classical, jazz, and blues approaches somehow converging into a single sparkling sound – a sound completely his own. Woody takes a fresh approach to his blues re-creations and his own compositions defy category. If there was a category simply called “Great Music,” Woody’s C.D. would belong there.
– John Fahey


Woody Mann, Jo-Ann Kelly, Son House - Been Here & Gone
Year: 1999
Label: Acoustic Music Records 3191174

Son House : vocals
Jo Ann Kelly : vocals
Woody Mann : guitar

Rec. 1971/1972 Yazoo Studio, New York City
except tracks 3,5,9,12,15,18,21 rec. 1999

Tracks:
01 4 O'Clock
02 Sun Going Down
03 Green River
04 Come To Die
05 Been Here And Gone
06 Henry Millers Dream
07 Jo's Mistreated Blues
08 Bothering That Thing
09 Travelling Solo
10 King Street
11 Baby Where You Been
12 For Son
13 Blues Ain't Nothin'
14 Come To Die - Son's Take
15 Slow Motion
16 Rolling Log
17 Pigmeat
18 Sour Jive
19 New Stockyard Blues
20 Drunken Barrelhouse
21 Coda For Jo

better than death.
mp3 224 kbps | with covers | 100 Mb

and check out Woody's web site where you can get CDs, DVDs, books, and find out about concerts & workshops. http://www.woodymann.com/

4 comments:

Record Fiend said...

IP,

I really appreciate you posting this. I've been an admirer of your blog for some time and wanted to let you know what a great job you're doing. I just recently got around to listening to the Clifford Hayes and Memphis Sanctified Jug Bands albums you made available awhile back. They are both excellent. Thank you. Please stop by my place sometime. Even though, my blog doesn't specialize in vintage music like yours, there still may be an item or two of interest to you.

Regards,

RF

dave said...

There are two records that I never take off my mp3 player: Jo-Ann Kelly's first and Son House's Original Delta Blues. I didn't know about this one. Thanks very much!

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for the chance to listen to this album. Big fan of Son House since I heard Death Letter Blues.

Regards

Rhod