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Jul. 30th, 2009

Johnny Shines

Important Announcement

I have decided to temporarily focus on my old blog, http://hardluckchild.blogspot.com/, where you can find all the Country Blues, Electric Blues, New Orleans Jazz, Old-Timey, Country and Rhyhtm & Blues music you're looking for. By using Blogspot, I am able to see how many people have visited my blog and which posts they like. I cannot do this with Live Journal, to the best of my knowledge. I have attempted to use AddThis in order to see how many people are visiting this blog, but AddThis does not seem to cooperate with this blog. If any computer masters have a solution, please let me know. If not, please head on over to http://hardluckchild.blogspot.com/ and leave comments, criticism and requests. Thank you very much!

Hard Luck Child

Jul. 27th, 2009

Johnny Shines

Erwin's Blues & Jazz

Erwin Helfer- I'm Not Hungry But I Like To Eat- Blues

"Erwin Helfer was introduced to piano blues as a young teenager growing up in Chicago in the early '50s, the heyday of the city's blues clubs and the fortunes of labels such as Chess Records. A native of Chicago's south side, he haunted the clubs as a boy, but he also took the time to attend school and completed college with a degree in music, which he followed by spending three years in New Orleans in the late '50s, where he played jazz. Among the musicians who influenced him most were Jimmy Yancey, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Speckled Red, and Helfer counted himself a good friend of guitarist Big Joe Williams. Helfer became a performer and teacher, touring Europe as a blues pianist and also training college students in Chicago throughout the 1970s. His style is equally adaptable to blues and jazz."

Album Review:
"There is a special jazz piano style, uniquely Chicago's, which has been around for a long time and continues to flourish with the likes of Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, Pinetop Perkins, and the practitioner on this CD, Erwin Helfer. In the tradition of Albert Ammons, Meade "Lux" Lewis, Pete Johnson, and others who were born in Chicago and/or did most of their work in the Windy City with its own distinct flavor and cadence, Erwin captures it in its undiluted form on this release by the Sirens, label which seems to have cornered the market for Chicago piano blues. Helfer puts all of the workings of this jazz style out on the line for everyone to hear and enjoy. There's a slow, somewhat sorrowful "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," with John Brumbach adding his bluesy tenor, in contrast to the fast-paced, honky tonk boogie-woogie of Pete Johnson's favorite, "Swanee River Boogie" and Erwin's own boogie, "Pooch Piddle." On one of the all-time blues favorites, Ma Rainey's "See See Rider," Erwin moves back and forth between bass and boogie basslines with ease, making this cut one of the highlights of the album as he embodies the uncommon ability these piano blues performers had to make the music come across with a one-of-a-kind vibrancy and brilliance. Erwin puts icing on the cake as he adds a gospel flavor to one of the biggest R&B hits, "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Other notable tracks include "Dirty Dozens," "The Sheik of Araby," and "After Hours." This CD makes a major contribution to keeping this exciting setting of jazz music in the public eye. Recommended."

Download Link: http://www.zshare.net/download/63258440fa5bacd0/
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Jul. 24th, 2009

Johnny Shines


J.T. "Funny Papa" Smith- Complete Recorded Works (1930-1931)

"J.T. "Funny Paper" Smith was a pioneering force behind the development of the Texas blues guitar style of the pre-war era; in addition to honing a signature sound distinguished by intricate melody lines and simple, repetitive bass riffs, he was also a gifted composer, authoring songs of surprising narrative complexity. A contemporary of such legends as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Dennis "Little Hat" Jones, next to nothing concrete is known of John T. Smith's life; assumed to have been born in East Texas during the latter half of the 1880s, he was a minstrel who wandered about the panhandle region, performing at fairs, fish fries, dances and other community events (often in the company of figures including Tom Shaw, Texas Alexander and Bernice Edwards). Smith settled down long enough to record some 22 songs between 1930 and 1931, among them his trademark number "Howling Wolf Blues, Parts One and Two"; indeed, he claimed the alternate nickname "Howling Wolf" some two decades before it was appropriated by his more famous successor, Chester Burnett. (The true story behind Smith's more common nickname remains a matter of some debate -- some blues archivists claim he was instead dubbed "Funny Papa," with the "Funny Paper" alias resulting only from record company error.) His career came to an abrupt end during the mid-'30s, when he was arrested for murdering a man over a gambling dispute; Smith was found guilty and imprisoned, and is believed to have died in his cell circa 1940."

Album Review:
"Document's Complete Recorded Works (1930-1931) offers an exhaustive overview of Funny Paper Smith's entire career, featuring all 22 sides he produced during the early '30s. Highlights are all over this disc, including the original "Howling Wolf Blues," "Tell It to the Judge," and the two-part "Seven Sisters Blues." However, there are also quite a few alternate takes, which will make it more of a chore to get through for casual listeners. The features that make it appealing to academics -- long running time, exacting chronological sequencing, poor fidelity (all cuts are transferred from original acetates and 78s), and an exhaustive number of performances -- will likely impair its overall listenability for most."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/16157071
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Jul. 16th, 2009

Johnny Shines


Teddy Williams- The George Mitchell Collection

"Teddy Williams and William “Do Boy” Diamond were both recorded in Canton, Mississippi in 1967 on subsequent days. Diamond was a basic guitar player but possessed a great, relaxed voice. “Hard Time Blues” is a magnificent number, sharing the same haunting quality of some of Skip James’ numbers. More of his sides can be found on George Mitchell Collection Vol. 5. It’s suggested the older Williams may have taught Diamond, and he too is a powerful singer in a similar style."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/16028980
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Jul. 15th, 2009

Johnny Shines


Richard "Hacksaw" Harney- Sweet Man

"Richard 'Hacksaw' Harney was born in Money, MS, on July 16, 1902. He passed away on Christmas morning in 1973 of stomach cancer.
Hacksaw was regarded by many musicians as the best guitarist in the Delta.
--Robert Palmer, Deep Blues

 I really think that Hacksaw was a big influence with Robert [Johnson]. He was the only somebody who could compete with him... He played the guitar very, very well. --Robert Lockwood, Jr., Living Blues
His talent, virtuosity and flair rank him with the likes of Robert Johnson, Blind Blake, Reverrend Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson. And yet, if it were not for these Adelphi/Blues Vault tapes, he would be a blues equivalent of Buddy Bolden, the unrecorded giant whose mysterious legend enlivens early jazz lore. --Larry Hoffman.

Adelphi Records is pleased to present this ten song collection demonstrating the guitar wizardry of Richard Hacksaw Harney, the musician's musician from the motherland of American Music. Hacksaw was sought out by blues researchers in the 1960's because of the high esteem with which his contemporaries regarded him, many of whom were still awed by recollections of his occasional, impromptu appearances in Delta jukes or on the legendary King Biscuit Time radio show in Helena, Arkansas. In 1969, Adelphi's traveling studio followed the Harney reputation from Chicago to Jackson and back to Memphis, where Hacksaw was finally located, with the assistance of a posse of aging but enthusiastic blues musicians. Their persistence was amply rewarded by his sparkling and complex finger-picking playing.

Errata: In the liner notes, we mistakenly attribute the nickname 'Hacksaw' as originating during the artist's brief career in boxing. Pinetop Perkins set the record straight by reminding us that this outstanding musician (equally stunning as a piano player) supported himself by tuning and repairing pianos. "He always carried a little hacksaw with him, and he could grab a piece of anything and make a new key with that hacksaw. He taught me how to repair a piano."
-Adelphi Records

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/16015093
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Jul. 13th, 2009

Johnny Shines


Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band- Complete Recorded Works (1933-1939)

"Singer/guitarist Jack Kelly was the frontman of the South Memphis Jug Band, a popular string band whose music owed a heavy debt to the blues as well as minstrel songs, vaudeville numbers, reels and rags. Little is known of the hoarse-voiced Kelly's origins; he led the group in tandem with fiddler Will Batts, and they made their first recordings in 1933, followed in 1939 by a second and final session. Although the South Memphis Jug Band's lineup changed frequently, Kelly remained a constant, leading the group in various incarnations until as late as the mid-'50s; he died in Memphis in 1960."

Album Review:
"Document's Complete Recorded Works (1933-1939) is an exhaustive overview of Jack Kelly's career. However, for all but completists and academics, the disc is a mixed blessing due to its exacting chronological sequencing, poor fidelity (all cuts are transferred from original acetates and 78s), and sheer number of performances. Casual fans are better off with a less comprehensive package."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/15971129
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Jul. 4th, 2009

Johnny Shines


K.C. Douglas- A Dead Beat Guitar And The Mississippi Blues

"One of the last great rural blues stylists in the San Francisco/Oakland area, K.C. Douglas produced a blues classic when he recorded "Mercury Boogie" in 1949. The tune, which paid homage to the American automobile, was later renamed "Mercury Blues" and covered by Steve Miller and David Lindley. Country superstar Alan Jackson had a number one hit when he recorded the tune in 1992. Rights to the song were purchased by the Ford Motor Company, which used it for a television commercial for Ford trucks.

Born and raised on a family farm near Sharon, MS, Douglas was deeply influenced by the 1920s recordings of Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. Although he left home in 1934 to work outside of music in the Mississippi towns of Grenada and Carthage, he launched his music career after meeting Johnson two years later. After Douglas impressed Johnson with his baritone vocals and skillful guitar playing, the two musicians began performing together on street corners and parties.

Relocating to Vallejo, CA, in 1945, Douglas found employment in the naval shipyards. Within a couple of years, he gravitated to the San Francisco/Oakland blues scene, forming a band, the Lumberjacks, in 1947. His first recordings were issued on the Oakland-based Downtown label in 1948. Although he continued to perform at dances and small clubs, occasionally with Jesse Fuller, throughout the 1950s and '60s, Douglas supplemented his meager income from music with a variety of jobs. He worked for the public works department in Berkeley from 1963 until the mid-'70s.

While he recorded such songs as "Born in the Country," "Catfish Blues," "Fanny Lou," "Hear Me Howlin'," "K.C.'s Doctor Blues," and "Wake Up Workin' Woman" for Bluesville in 1960 and Fantasy in 1967, Douglas didn't reach his peak until the 1970s. After performing at the Berkeley Blues Festival in 1970, he formed a quartet and became a frequent performer at coffeehouses, clubs, and bars in the East Bay/Modesto/Stockton area and recorded several tracks for the Arhoolie label between 1973 and 1974.

Succumbing to a fatal heart attack on October 17, 1975, Douglas was buried in the Pleasant Green Cemetery in Sharon, MS."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/15826835
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Jun. 28th, 2009

Johnny Shines

The Unearthly Bill Williams

Bill Williams- Low And Lonesome

Liner Notes:
"A 73-year old guitarist can be forgiven for losing the sureness of touch and loose co-ordination demanded in the lost art of blues-playing, particularly if he offers original or authentic material to an audience which has been largely denied the chance to hear yesterday's greats in person. If he is 73 and yet betrays no hint of his age in his approach to the most complicated and diverse guitar styles, one can only marvel in disbelief.
Disbelief is the inevitable reaction to incredible Bill Williams, a former partner of Blind Blake who is without doubt the most technically accomplished living country blues guitarist. Nothing about his effortless playing suggests the now familiar relic of the remote past who must be patronized to demonstrate that country blues are alive and well (they aren't). His present day skills not only put most other oldsters to shame, but are sufficient to have made him a stand- out in any era.
Yet at this writing Williams is practically unknown beyond the confines of Greenup, Kentucky, a small town near the Ohio border whose locale figures as background in the writings of novelist Jesse Stuart. In his very obscurity, Williams is a cherished but little-encountered blues archetype - the unsung great who outplays most of his more prestigious contemporaries.
In every other respect, however, Williams is a refreshing departure from blues tradition. While the most familiar species of bluesman shamelessly exaggerates his musical feats before anyone gullible enough to listen, the unassuming Bill Williams is horrified by even favorable notoriety. He derives greater satisfaction from the placid virtues of solid citizenship (he is a Kentucky Colonel and an election supervisor) and rugged self-sufficiency (he built his own home and raises much of his own food) than his unsolicited position as the blues' most exciting "find" in a long time. Perhaps because he is by now taken for granted in a community where, as one performer puts it, "You're practically a foreigner if you don't play some kind of instrument", he can't quite believe the furor he has begun to generate among blues enthusiasts. "If someone as dumb as me can play," he insists, "anybody can."
His career is no less exceptional than his selfdeprecating attitudes. He came by all of his dazzling technique without any instruction while living sixty miles in the country beyond his native Richmond, Virginia, where he was born in 1897. His brother James. a ragtime guitarist, took pains to safeguard his instrument from Bill's curious hands by tuning his strings so slack that they were unplayable before leaving for work each morning. One day Bill seized the guitar and managed to figure out the chords for Yankee Doodle Dandy, a song he knew from school and still delights in performing, with ragtime embellishments.
Bill subsequently met few guitarists in the Richmond area, but his style nevertheless developed the ragtime emphasis and smooth picking patterns one associates with the East Coast musician. He was first exposed to blues through an old recording of St. Louis Blues a 1914 hit which received wide contemporary pop treatment and would, for the general white audience, practically define the entire blues form. Another early acquisition was the Lucky Blues, which Bill adapted from the work of a local guitarist. He also played pieces like John Henry with a bottleneck in open E tuning (a method he has since discarded). Its strongest inclinations, however, were towards the key of C, the one he considered best suited for his voice. This preference was to favor his development as a ragtime virtuoso, for C is the usual key of guitar rags.
Although Bill must have displayed phenomenal ability in his youth (when, he says, he was at his true peak), he never played music professionally, and never earned money for entertaining at parties and dances. Unlike most contemporary blues singers, he actually preferred manual labor to the idea of playing for a living, even though his jobs were often so fatiguing as to preclude off-hours practice. At the age of fourteen he became a waterboy on a railroad in Wilmington, Delaware. Then he was packed off to relatives in the small town of Lester, Colorado, in his family's old-fashioned belief that labor in the mines would steady his delicate "nerves". But mine conditions proved so unnerving that he virtually fled to Pensacola, Florida, where he became a timber-cutter.
While living in Bristol, Tennessee in the early 1920's Bill met the peerless Blind Blake who was then living with an elderly woman (perhaps a relative) in a desolate nearby country area. For four months Bill worked as Blake's regular second guitarist, always picking his accompaniments instead of strumming in the usual fashion of the back-up musician. Blake was particularly taken with Low and Lonesome, but never borrowed Bill's blues motifs, although his own repertoire was then limited to a few basic pieces. When they parted company Bill worked out arrangements of Blake's trademark songs (including My Girlfriend Left Me and Too Tight) in a nostalgic recollection of his friend, for whom he had both personal and professional regard. Today he ventures only the just criticism that "my man Blake", as he calls him, tended to repeat himself too often in the key of C.
In 1922 Bill left Bristol with no special destination and jumped off a freight train in Greenup. He accepted a job with the C&O Railroad in nearby Russell, Kentucky, and has lived in the area ever since. His railroad routes - to Covington, Ky. and Columbus, Ohio - have largely circumscribed his subsequent career. As the population of this region is almost exclusively white, Bill hasn't played for any Negro dances since coming to Greenup. Not surprisingly, his material betrays this immersion into the white musical community. However, by applying the inventive and vigorous picking techniques of the true blues or rag guitarist to whatever songs he chooses to adapt, he is able to enhance even the most commonplace pieces.
To assuage his audience on those occasions when his usual accompanists failed to keep playing dates, Williams transposed a number of traditional fiddle tunes to guitar: Mockingbird, Long Way To Tipperary (a pop song of World War I vintage) Turkey In The Straw, and Old Joe Clark. These guitar interpretations are unique. Other songs were taken from the popular recordings of Charlie Poole and Riley Puckett, a skilled hillbilly guitarist who once expressed personal admiration for Bill's playing. There is also some Merle Travis influence on Bill's techniques, but this influence may be mutual, since he recalls meeting the younger Travis after his own style matured.
Some of Bill's most arresting pieces are too exotic to fit into any known category, and ultimately make the labels "ragtime" or "blues" guitarist inadequate to describe him. He learned one of his real showpieces, the minor-keyed Pocahontas, from an Italian railroader he met in the 1920's and in turn tutored in blues-playing. (Although the man spoke no English, his version had English lyrics.) Bill's exquisite arrangement of Lazy River far removes it from its usual bland pop moorings and his own picking style, and would have done credit to ultrasophisticated bluesmen like Lonnie Johnson. Even the "hard" blues, I'll Follow You, represents a total departure from all known East Coast blues-playing; but is surprisingly reminiscent of the mainstream Texas sounds of Willie Reed and Will Day. Besides these unconventional works, Bill offers finger-picked renditions of Christmas carols and the Star-Spangled Banner, demonstrating his professed ability to master any tune his listener can hum.
Perhaps as uncanny as Bill's versatility is his very preservation of the gifts that most country bluesmen have long since lost with time or disinterest. Within the last twenty years, or long after the commercial demise of country blues, Bill was figuring out classics like I'll Follow You and Chicken, a minstrel song probably dating to the turn of the century. Before his retirement from the railroad in 1958 his continued practicing was partly attributable to a Sunday morning shift as camp cook that often left him with free time on his hands and no company besides his guitar. Eight years ago a doctor told him that the exercise afforded by guitar-playing was perfect therapy for his arthritic wrist. This advice, coupled with constant local demands for his appearances at social gatherings, has probably kept Bill's music from declining. Today he shows no signs of slowing down, although he insists that the performing grind is undermining his health, and periodically announces his "retirement".
If Bill is increasingly reluctant to perform publically he is even more so to record. Despite a rare command of material that enables him to produce many perfect first takes in a recording studio, he would much prefer less formal performances for friends. But for the unselfish zeal of Charlie Parsons, a local guitar teacher and coauthor of a book on guitar technique, Bill would have remained forever in contented oblivion. A demonstration tape Parsons practically tricked him into recording proved so convincing that Blue Goose immediately scheduled a session - over Bill's protests that he would need three years to get in shape for recording. Once company officials arrived in Greenup, Bill asked: "What you fellows doin' here recording me?" His album should provide the best answer."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/15733876
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Jun. 21st, 2009

Johnny Shines


Robert Pete Williams- I'm Blue As A Man Can Be

"Discovered in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Robert Pete Williams became one of the great blues discoveries during the folk boom of the early '60s. His disregard for conventional patterns, tunings, and structures kept him from a wider audience, but his music remains one of the great, intense treats of the blues.

Williams was born in Zachary, Louisiana, the son of sharecropping parents. While he was a child, he worked the fields with his family; he never attended school. Williams didn't begin playing blues until his late teens, when he made himself a guitar out of a cigar box. Playing his homemade guitar, Williams began performing at local parties, dances, and fish fries at night while he worked during the day. Even though he was constantly working, he never made quite enough money to support his family, which caused considerable tension between him and his wife -- according to legend, she burned his guitar one night in a fit of anger.

Despite all of the domestic tension, Williams continued to play throughout the Baton Rouge area, performing at dances and juke joints. In 1956, he shot and killed a man in a local club. Williams claimed the act was in self-defense, but he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was sent to Angola prison, where he served for two years before being discovered by ethnomusicologists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen. The pair recorded Williams performing several of his own songs, which were all about life in prison. Impressed with the guitarist's talents, Oster and Allen pleaded for a pardon for Williams. The pardon was granted in 1959, after he had served a total of three and a half years. For the first five years after he left prison, Williams could only perform in Lousiana, but his recordings -- which appeared on Folk-Lyric, Arhoolie, and Prestige, among other labels -- were popular and he received positive word of mouth reviews.

In 1964, Williams played his first concert outside of Louisiana -- it was a set at the legendary Newport Folk Festival. Williams' performance was enthusiastically received and he began touring the United States, often playing shows with Mississippi Fred McDowell. For the remainder of the '60s and most of the '70s, Robert Pete Williams constantly played concerts and festivals across America, as well a handful of dates in Europe. Along the way, he recorded for a handful of small independent labels, including Fontana and Storyville. Williams slowed down his work schedule in the late '70s, largely due to his old age and declining health. The guitarist died on December 31, 1980, at the age of 66."

Album Review:
"More classic early sides."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/15570642
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Jun. 18th, 2009

Johnny Shines


Memphis Willie Borum- Introducing Memphis Willie B.

"Willie Borum was born in Shelby County, Tenneessee, in 1911. His musical ability was evident from an early age and his father, who was also a good musician, taught him the guitar.   By the time he was eighteen years old he was playing in Memphis as a member of Jack Kelly's Jug Busters. He also worked the street corners, parties and picnics, and any other venue where he could supplement his income. His career took a step up when he joined the Memphis Jug Band, a professional group that worked out of Memphis and down the Mississippi, playing the delta towns and riverboats, travelling as far as New Orleans. When he was in his early twenties Borum met up with  Noah Lewis, harp player with the other professional jug band in Memphis, Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers. Lewis taught Borum to play harmonica, and the combination of guitar and harp allowed Borum to widen his style and gradually move away from the jug band approach. He started working with other popular bluesmen of the period including Sonny Boy (Rice Miller) Williamson and Robert Johnson.

Borum first recorded when he was twenty three years old for Vocalion using the name Memphis Willie B. He continued to play the party and juke joint circuit in Memphis and in Mississippi until he was drafted into the army in 1943. After the 2nd World War Borum found it difficult to re-establish his career, musical tastes had changed and his style of music was no longer popular, and he was forced to find work outside of music. The blues revival of the 1960's brought a few good years back and he was successful on the college and blues festival circuit for a while. However by the end of the 1960's he disappeared from the music scene and he was reported to have died in Memphis in the early 1970's."

Download Link: http://www.badongo.com/file/15513888
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