Archive for the 'Recorded' Category

Behind Discovering Elvie

Since my last post on “The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie” by John Jeremiah Sullivan in The New York Times Magazine, several posts providing background have come out. Most of the good ones have been on the blog The 6th Floor: Eavesdropping on the Times Magazine. Under Cover: In Pursuit of an Unearthly Record by Jeannie Choi tells the tale of the quest by 78 record collector Christopher King of Long Gone Sound for the actual 78 featured in the magazine piece. Caitlin Rose Love, featured in the magazine piece as well as being one of its reporters, posted On Geeshie Wiley’s Trail on the as yet unsuccessful attempt to learn more about Geeshie Wiley. Finally, Rachel Nolan reported on Sullivan’s back story in Behind the Cover Story: John Jeremiah Sullivan on the Search for Geeshie and Elvie.

The Story Behind John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Times Magazine Cover Story by Matthew Kassel at the New York Observer raises the questions about how Love secretly copied blogged Robert “Mack” McCormick‘s notes. That question of stealing does not interest me. The assertion that the magazine piece was edited to 14,000 words from an original 35,000 does interest me. I would like to read the even longer form.

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Michael M. on April 18th 2014 in General, Music, Recorded

Geeshie and Elvie

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie” by John Jeremiah Sullivan in The New York Times Magazine is a piece of wonder. It tells the detective story of uncovering the lost identities of pre-war musicians Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. It has fantastic multimedia, weaving text with photography, sound and video. I cannot recall any piece doing so nearly as well. It all centers around my current home of Houston, Texas!

Some familiar names figure prominently. Blogged Robert “Mack” McCormick is a 78 record collector and music historian living in a Houston suburb. Previously mentioned Amanda Petrusich was interviewed as chronicler and fan of that world, and mentioned Greil Marcus has research credit.

I knew a little, very little, about Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas from the music compilation Mississippi BluesRare Cuts 1926-1941. Despite the compilation’s title, Elvie Thomas turns out to have been L. V. Thomas of Houston, Texas! The Blues Trail identifies them as Mississippians, in apparent conflict with McCormick’s research. While I would like to claim them as fellow Mississippians, I am happy to know the truth. McCormick has held detailed knowledge of the truth for years, but his research had not made public until now.

The work also revived my interest in finding more about local music here in Houston. H and I have found just a few old-time or country blues musicians here. Now there is a prominent article about Houston’s role in some great recordings and their history. I made a few inquiries about music here with people involved in the article, and I hope they bear some fruit.

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Michael M. on April 13th 2014 in General, Music, Recorded

C, that’s the way to begin.

Just as nobody knows you better than your mother, nobody knows me better than my mother. I have been known to love me some chicken, as multiple posts attest. This one is a favorite. Earlier this week, the CD Cluck Old Hen: A Barnyard Serenade 1926-1940 from Old Hat Records arrived in the mail. I had not ordered it. Looking inside, I found that it was a surprise gift. My mother ordered it for me after reading “Collection of songs uses chickens as theme” by Scott Barretta in the Clarion-Ledger. Barretta is the main force behind Highway 61 Radio, a show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and many Mississippi musical heritage projects.

Old Hat Records is a wonderful label, and I previously blogged about Good for What Ails You. Given the 24 tracks, I am not the only one with such an affection for the magical bird. I can only fault the omission of “Old Hen Cackle” by Coleman and Harper, also known as Two Poor Boys. Grab it from the Internet Archive. In Old Hat’s defense, the label had already put out the recording on Down in the Basement: Joe Bussard’s Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s from the collection of blogged Joe Bussard. In researching it, I found this video on YouTube of Hubby Jenkins with the favorite Carolina Chocolate Drops just tearing it up.

This American Life had several Poultry Slam episodes in the past, the most recent in 2011. I will contact the show about this marvelous collection.

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Michael M. on February 23rd 2013 in General, Music, Recorded

The Hodges Brothers, Jesse James’ Women, and the Nations Brothers

The journey to Clifftop renewed my interest in old-time music, and a recent search reminded me of this post on Bogue Chitto Flingding, an old album by the Hodges Brothers. Arhoolie has re-released the album Bogue Chitto Flingding on CD. I await the arrival of my copy. Watermelon Hangin’ on the Vine is available on eBay. The band had slipped my mind for several years. I decided to repeat my search for more information on the band.

The band played old-time and bluegrass, as I knew. To my surprise, they had recorded some rockabilly, too. The blog boppingbopping has this post about their rockabilly singles. The German, but not the English, Wikipedia has this entry on them. Several of their singles have been posted to YouTube, including “Honey Talk,” “My Heart Fell at Her Feet” and “It Won’t Be Long” on Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi and “I’m Gonna Rock Some Too.” It lists Mississippi Records, Box 101, Osyka, Miss. on its label. They recorded many of their tracks at WAPF, the radio station that was still standard morning listening in my home when I was growing up.

I also stumbled across Sippiana Succotash. The blog is dedicated to memories from Brookhaven, Mississippi, the next big town north of my hometown. This blog post Bogue Chitto’s Own Recording Artists — Or Should We Say Ruth’s? pins their origins to the community of Ruth, Mississippi. Sippiana Succotash also has this post on the McGraw Family, a string band about whom little is known. That same blog had this post about Jesse James’ Women. It was filmed in Silver Creek, Mississippi. The whole thing is available on YouTube although it is not a memorable movie.

My YouTube search also led me to this video of coach Mike Hodges of Bogue Chitto on guitar. I do not know the relationship between him and the Hodges Brothers, but I am sure that there is one. Pointing to more connections, the video was posted by nations1992. The Nations Brothers are another string band I like. As far as I can find, the Nations Brothers were the only Mississippi Piney Woods string band recorded in the early era of electric recording. This blog post on Old Time Party reproduces an article about the Nations Brothers from Old Time Music magazine written and published by blogged Tony Russell. The article reports that the Nations Brothers stopped playing music and went on to lives as prominent civic figures in Brookhaven.

The blog Old Time Party is a great find. It has a wealth of information on old-time music that will take me a long time to read. The information includes multiple posts mentioning Mississippi. Old Time Magazine also published “10 Days in Mississippi” (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4), also written by publisher Tony Russell himself. I have searched for the article for years.

This Dock Boggs and John Hurt post on Old Time Party is also excellent. It recounts a double bill concert given by them soon after their rediscoveries that featured Hurt clogging to Boggs at the show’s end. I blogged a while back about when Dock Boggs and beloved Mississippi John Hurt stayed with Mike Seeger. I suspect that it was for that concert. In that post, I mentioned W. E. Myers as a link between Boggs and Hurt. The post points to very similar lyrics in Hurt’s “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me” and the last stanza of Boggs’ “Old Rub Alcohol Blues,” both penned by Myers. These small links are treasures.

I will watch Old Time Party closely from now on.

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Michael M. on August 11th 2012 in General, Movies, Music, Recorded

Winning Earth Day Again

H and I teamed with Doug Foehner to form the Trash Tones for this year’s Green Strum Band Scramble at St. Louis Earth Day. The rain and wind were intermittent enough to let the event happen. I blogged last year about winning the band scramble. The blogged Green Strum Project, headed by blogged friend Ryan Spearman and Kelly Wells, had a tent again this year with JR Scott and a crew of others. Kelly promoted the event on local station KTVI in this segment. H built a bow for the fiddle that we made last year, and I built a cigar box instrument somewhere between a guitar and a mandolin. Doug played a bucket slide guitar. We won against the Chlorphyllians and the Trash Truck Revival with our song “Solar, Wind and Waves.” Our prize was tickets to LouFest!

“Solar, Wind and Waves” by the Trash Tones

Introduction

Chorus:
G/G
Solar, wind and waves,
G/G
They'll be here all our days.
C/C
Renewable, reusable,
C/G
They don't make no waste.
Instrumental over chorus chords

Verse 1:
C/C/C/G
Nuclear, petroleum, natural gas and coal,
C/C
They're powering our cars and homes,
D/D
But crushing all our souls.

Chorus

Instrumental over chorus chords

Verse 2:
We can't go through out lives just digging up the past.
We must make it better now
If this world's going to last.

Chorus

Instrumental over chorus chords

Update April 23, 2012: This video on YouTube is up!

Update April 30, 2012: This message of thanks from St. Louis Earth Day links to the video above and to this post with the lyrics and chords.

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Michael M. on April 22nd 2012 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

My “Stagger Lee,” a resophonic festival and Mississippi John Hurt’s Rediscovery

On January 14, 2012, the Department of Pathology and Immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine hosted An Evening of Music / Winter Concert. It featured some great performances by string quartets, small ensembles and singers. I volunteered to play. With nods to the city of Saint Louis and  favorite Mississippi John Hurt, I chose favorite “Stagger Lee.” I got past the nerves and played it out. H took a video for me that I posted.

“Stagger Lee” (mp3) (video on YouTube)

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This past Sunday, H and I headed to Iron Barley for the 6th Annual Tom Hall Resophonic Extravaganza. I had to return after the blogged last one was so good. The Lulus, another favorite, made fine contributions to the festivities. So did blogged Tom Hall, Geoff Seitz, Brian Curran and many more I have forgotten.

At the benefit, a friend reminded me about the new Mississippi John Hurt album. He later directed me to this post on Black Grooves. It leads to Discovery: The Rebirth of Mississippi John Hurt. Weenie Campbell has this worthwhile thread on it. This new release on Spring Fed Records features recordings that Tom Hoskins made on March 3, 1963 when he journeyed to Avalon, Mississippi in search of the long lost musician. This video from the University Press of Mississippi on Vimeo also appears at the bottom of the album link above. In it starting about 10:20, twice blogged Philip Ratcliffe and author of Mississippi John Hurt: His Life, His Times, His Blues discusses how these tapes were found in the bottom of an old cardboard box under Tom Hoskins’ sister’s guest bed. I have been streaming tracks, and I gladly anticipate the arrival of my CD.

Update February 8, 2012: Outlook, the Washington University School of Medicine’s magazine, published this gallery of the Winter Concert. The photograph of me is 17th. You also can see it directly.

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Michael M. on January 31st 2012 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Banjo in 2011

The KDHX blog has this post regarding 2011 banjo events. Several of the links are great. In particular, H and I watched Give Me the Banjo. The program is available streaming. Local PBS affiliate KETC paired it with this segment on blogged friend Ryan Spearman.

Along the same lines, Waxy Links pointed to You shall Hear things, Wonderful to tell on Metafilter. It provides background on the mentioned O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The movie, mostly through its music, made a great difference to me. It got me playing more, and I added fiddle, mandolin and banjo in the years since. It got enough others playing that I found a community.

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Michael M. on December 27th 2011 in General, Music, Recorded

Old-time fiddling at the Atomic Cowboy

I returned to the blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic last night. The heat slacked enough to bring out many of the best regulars along with a new face or two. I realized a while back that I had no videos of myself fiddling. My banjo playing friend SB graciously joined me on stage. We played three Illinois fiddle tunes and then I added a song on guitar, not recorded, at the end. H recorded the first three, and I have posted this playlist on YouTube. Below are audio files of the tunes and the embedded playlist.

The tunes all come from Illinois. “Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree” is one I have blogged two times. “Brisk Young Soldier” is one I learned from SB at the beloved Folk School. Harvey “Pappy” Taylor played it. My “Red Hills Polka” comes mostly from Bob Holt‘s recording. The Allen Street String Band, the fellows who collected it, named it after Red Hills State Park where they heard it. They did not get the original title from the woman who played it for them or even her name. Mudcat has this discussion.

“Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree” (mp3) (m4a) (video on YouTube)

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“Brisk Young Soldier” (mp3) (m4a) (video on YouTube)

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“Red Hills Polka” (mp3) (m4a) (video on YouTube)

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Michael M. on August 9th 2011 in General, Mine, Music, Recorded

Green Strum album

Blogged friend Ryan Spearman started his twice blogged Green Strum Project with wife Kelly Wells. They promised of an album dedicated to sustainability. Get Along Home was released June 18, 2011. You can find my name among the sponsors inside the cover. So far, my favorite song is “Willie McGee” about former Cardinals great Willie McGee. The Riverfront Times ran this fittingly flattering review.

Ryan will play the Sheldon Friday, August 26, 2011. The blogged Lulus, featuring H on fiddle along with Kelly and some twin harmonizing, will open. The Sheldon is one of Saint Louis’ great concert spaces. It should be a great night.

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Michael M. on July 16th 2011 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

What Do You Want from the Liquor Store?

Barlow Farms has the post Amazing Song about the song “What Do You Want from the Liquor Store?” (song on YouTube) by Ted Hawkins. Hawkins was a musician from Biloxi, Mississippi who never quite made it big. Several years ago, a friend gave me a mixed CD with this song on it. I loved it.

Hawkins never had sustained success for a variety of reasons. One was the genre crossing. He had a country side, and his version “There Stands the Glass” made it onto From Where I Stand: The Black Experience In Country Music that I blogged several years ago. Watch this great live performance on YouTube.

Barlow Farms picked up on Hawkins because This American Life featured “What Do You Want from the Liquor Store?” as a musical interlude in Episode 432: Know When to Fold ‘Em. I listened to the first part of the broadcast this past weekend, but I turned off the radio before the song. I am happy for it to receive the attention.

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Michael M. on April 14th 2011 in General, Music, Recorded

“Gimme Shelter” decontruction

This page found via Waxy Links has separate tracks that went into “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones. Each is a amazing, but the vocal track blows away the others.

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Michael M. on December 15th 2010 in General, Music, Recorded

Recreational music and mathematics

I came across Vi Hart’s web site. It is a treasure chest worth extensive exploration. She has a page of creations made with music boxes. Using a Möbius strip in a music box to make an infinitely looping piece of a tune alternating with its inversion is awesome. Mathematical doodling is another set of wonders.

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Michael M. on December 15th 2010 in General, Music, Recorded

Custer and Sitting Bull

Years ago, I would ride the roads of Long Island listening to WFMU. One night I heard unusual music about the Battle of Little Bighorn. The host talked to the composer about it. It was an atonal piece, and the composer had even selected his own scales. He had extensive knowledge about how to load synthesizers with his own tunings, and he talked about it. It left an impression on me as something esoteric and odd. For reasons I cannot fathom, it popped back into my head a few days ago. What was it? The web told me. It was Kyle Gann‘s Custer and Sitting Bull. His site has recordings, and it definitely is the piece I heard. He even blogs at PostClassic.

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Michael M. on November 4th 2010 in General, Music, Recorded

Thuman Grill Open Mic

I have blogged about the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic several times. Back in April, I visited the one at Thurman Grill. H’s band River Bound opened the night. Then I followed. With nobody in the wings to play after me, I kept going until my fingers got too blistered to continue. H recorded a few of the songs with her camera. I extracted the audio for mp3s, and I cut the videos to make this playlist on YouTube. The tunes are favorite Mississippi John Hurt‘s “Big Leg Blues” and “Louis Collins” with an original in D between them. She also recorded my arrangement of the wonderful Beatles‘ “In My Life.”

H recorded one long video with the first three tunes. I used FFmpeg edit it. Her camera records AVHCD videos with the .MTS extension and AC3 audio. For FFmpeg to cut it into pieces, I had to put it in a .mov file first. FFmpeg then was able to split the .mov file using the -ss and -t switches, but the duration was always wrong. I had to adjust the duration specified with the -t switch by a factor of 2. When I uploaded the videos, the YouTube results lacked audio. I re-encoded the audio track to AAC, and YouTube was able to convert them. I also used FFmpeg’s audio extraction feature to make mp3s. Here are the results.

“Big Leg Blues” (mp3)

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“D Original” (mp3)

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“Louis Collins” (mp3)

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“In My Life” (mp3)

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Michael M. on June 8th 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Fiddle exploration

For Memorial Day weekend, H and I headed up to Alton, Illinois. A friend told me that blogged Banjo Billy would host a jam at Mississippi Mud Pottery. The Old Time Music Gathering and Fiddler’s Picnic was a small, but it had good players. It was a celebration of fiddling on the river stretching back to the Corp of Discovery. I had a good time, but then I forgot about it.

Today I decided to revisit the Fiddle Hangout on my day off. While looking at whether any of my friends had been active there lately, I found this video. It is also here on YouTube. I am in it. In fact, I called and led the tune, “Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree.” I posted the tune several years back. I learned it from banjo buddy Robert Mallery and the Dear Old Illinois collection. A newspaper reporter recorded it although I was not aware at the time. “Fiddlers tip hats to the past” came out in the Telegraph.

Banjo Billy is a regular at the three times blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, better known as Battle Ground. I will go this year. I hope to play with Billy again. I know a number of Saint Louis players will go, too. I am excited for it!

“Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree” (mp3)

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Michael M. on June 7th 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music

The Bootstrappers

I have posted recently about H’s band River Bound and my solo performances at the repeatedly blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic. We play together sometimes as the Bootstrappers although our performances generally are limited to our living rooms and the rare informal gathering. One such occasion, blogged this past summer, was on a float trip. I finally got the video of “John Henry” from Facebook and posted it here to YouTube.

“John Henry” (mp3)

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Michael M. on April 14th 2010 in General, Mine, Music, Recorded

River Bound debut

I last blogged about my recent performance at the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic. River Bound, H’s bluegrass band, made their debut right before I went on. They cranked out good versions of “On and On,” “Blackberry Blossom,” “Some Old Day” and “Billy in the Lowground.” I shot video of them. The playlist on YouTube is embedded below.

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Michael M. on April 5th 2010 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

More Cowboy

I revisited the blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic Monday night. The blogged Ryan Spearman opened up with several great songs, as usual. Then H played with her new band River Bound. Videos may be forthcoming.

I took the stage for a few songs. H recorded me with her new camera. While I never feel totally happy with these things, I still like to share. I opened with “Stagger Lee” from my favorite Mississippi John Hurt. Then I played Libba Cotten‘s “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie.” With enough tragedy in place, I switched to partying with bloggedAlabama Jubilee” before closing with “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor,” another MJH song. Here is a YouTube playlist followed by links to the individual videos and mp3s.

“Stagger Lee” (video page) (mp3)

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“Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” (video page) (mp3)

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“Alabama Jubilee” (video page) (mp3)

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“Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” (video page) (mp3)

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I used FFmpeg to extract the audio from the video files above to make mp3s. I then realized that I could do the same with my recently blogged last videos from Atomic Cowboy Open Mic. Here they are.

“Coffee Blues” audio (mp3)

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“My Creole Belle” audio (mp3)

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Several friends showed up after H and I announced our plans of Facebook. It was great to see them out in the audience.

A band called Chicken Little! from Nashville played later in the night. Evidently, they had played a gig the night before and decided to stick around to check out more of the city. They combined accordian and guitar in a way I had not witnessed before. The singing was the true focus, though, and they have some fine arrangements worked out.

One of my favorites was the performance of Dave Black and Colleen Williamson. He opened with a fine arrangement of “Blackberry Blossom” on nylon-stringed guitar. The real great was “Jerusalem Ridge.” He played mandolin and Colleen played hammered dulcimer. It was inspired.

Thanks to friends who were there.

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Michael M. on April 1st 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Open mic

The Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, four times blogged now, offers a great opportunity for me and other amateurs to give performing a shot. Kelly Wells, who runs it with her husband twice blogged Ryan Spearman, records some of the performances. I got two of me, “Coffee Blues” and “My Creole Belle” from favorite Mississippi John Hurt, and posted them to YouTube. Here they are!

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Michael M. on March 24th 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Ryan Spearman CD release

H and I tried to see the blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops a few Friday nights ago at the Saint Louis Art Museum, but it was too packed. The museum picked a small gallery rather than the auditorium, probably due to construction. Even after expanding to two shows, there was not enough space.

The plan had been to head to the Focal Point for blogged Ryan Spearman‘s CD release party after the Chocolate Drops. I have learned a lot from Ryan at the often blogged Folk School, and he has let me play the three times blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, lauded by the Riverfront Times. Unable to see the Chocolate Drops, we went ahead. Ryan packed the place and put on a great show. The promoted CD is certainly worth your dollars. A studio album is in the pipeline.

My schedule is opening up a little for the next few weeks. I look forward to hearing a little more music and to playing more myself. I hope to revisit the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic to catch Ryan and other friends performing and to sing, pick and saw a little myself. Come out!

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Michael M. on March 23rd 2010 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.