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Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James

Big Al Whittle 17 Sep 17 - 08:10 AM
meself 14 Sep 17 - 10:08 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Sep 17 - 09:44 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 14 Sep 17 - 06:54 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Sep 17 - 10:16 AM
GUEST,matt milton 14 Sep 17 - 06:36 AM
Big Al Whittle 14 Sep 17 - 05:38 AM
The Sandman 14 Sep 17 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 13 Sep 17 - 08:07 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 13 Sep 17 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 13 Sep 17 - 07:36 PM
The Sandman 13 Sep 17 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 13 Sep 17 - 03:16 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Sep 17 - 02:07 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Sep 17 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 13 Sep 17 - 01:50 PM
Big Al Whittle 13 Sep 17 - 10:28 AM
GUEST,pauperback 13 Sep 17 - 10:05 AM
Big Al Whittle 13 Sep 17 - 03:09 AM
meself 12 Sep 17 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 12 Sep 17 - 06:43 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 12 Sep 17 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,CJ 12 Sep 17 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 12 Sep 17 - 06:08 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 12 Sep 17 - 06:06 PM
Big Al Whittle 12 Sep 17 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 12 Sep 17 - 01:21 PM
The Sandman 12 Sep 17 - 03:22 AM
GUEST,Elijah Wald 10 Sep 17 - 09:43 PM
The Sandman 09 Sep 17 - 02:51 PM
meself 09 Sep 17 - 10:47 AM
The Sandman 09 Sep 17 - 08:19 AM
harpgirl 08 Sep 17 - 11:15 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 08 Sep 17 - 11:02 PM
The Sandman 08 Sep 17 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 08 Sep 17 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 08 Sep 17 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,N 08 Sep 17 - 10:06 AM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 08 Sep 17 - 09:37 AM
GUEST,ned of the hill 08 Sep 17 - 09:32 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 08 Sep 17 - 06:07 AM
Big Al Whittle 08 Sep 17 - 01:15 AM
GUEST,Guest 08 Sep 17 - 12:00 AM
The Sandman 07 Sep 17 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 07 Sep 17 - 07:48 PM
Big Al Whittle 07 Sep 17 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 07 Sep 17 - 06:44 PM
The Sandman 07 Sep 17 - 05:50 PM
GUEST,Cj 07 Sep 17 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,Jerome Clark 07 Sep 17 - 02:59 PM
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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Sep 17 - 08:10 AM

the only song i ever wrote in d minor tuning DADFAD, favoured by Skip


https://soundcloud.com/denise_whittle/a-song-for-john-dillinger


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 10:08 PM

Well - nice to see some co-operation here!


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 09:44 PM

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/849894.I_d_Rather_Be_The_Devil


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 06:54 PM

Another dozen-plus opinions about this book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/849894.I_d_Rather_Be_The_Devil


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 10:16 AM

i don't think he does belittle it. he tries to analyse the nuts and bolts that led to the magic that we all respond to. the pressures upon him in the studio and in the culture of the deep south.

I admit I don't understand enough of music theory to understand what he's saying. I don't know enough about folksong to know whether he's analysing the influences correctly

However I do know some of the songs. I know a lot about being an unsuccessful musician, which is the situation Skip lived most of his life. I know quite a lot about American folk style guitar playing.

I would say Calt in this book has paid the artist the supreme compliment of discussing his music as if it mattered. That's more than most of us get.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 06:36 AM

So, Al, you don't find Calt's constant belittling of Skip James' music wearying?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 05:38 AM

my father had a copy of McCormack's The OLd Bog Road and The Rocky Road to Dublin.

James Joyce worshipped McCormack - there is a whole section of his biography talking about Joyce's musical activity and there is even a picture of him holding a guitar - holding down an A chord! love ir!

Joseph I really don't think Calt deserves this measure of scorn. He attempts to talk about Skip's slim recorded output - track by track in a musicianly way. i must say this is much better than the Broonzy biog. which is always being favourably commented on.

There is real engagement with the subject. I'm not a formally trained musician - so much of what he is saying goes over my head. Nevertheless, I think Calt's biography is a creditable effort that many Skio James fans will love.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Sep 17 - 12:43 AM

john hurt was a blues singer so was skip james, now go and collect trainspotters


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 08:07 PM

"comments about" Comments above, that should be.

Researcher of black folk music Howard Odum, 1911: "In general 'songster' is used to denote any negro who regularly sings or make songs...." In 1911 if John Hurt sang a blues song he was a songster and a blues singer and in 1911 if John Hurt sang a non-blues song he was a songster.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 08:02 PM

"nor have you shown that I'm misinformed about anything else above" Except I did forget that Bill Wyman changed his name. (You introducing the Rolling Stones to the conversation was the sort of derailing from Calt and James that you more recently have come to not approve of.)

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about that "songster" means singer (the idea that songster somehow suggested _non-blues_ singer is a myth that came along decades into blues "scholarship"), and that many blues singers were honest, including Hurt. These are the sorts of facts about music history, as opposed to myths, that one can research if one wants, eh?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 07:36 PM

"you are also misinformed" John McCormack was not a folk singer who regularly had hit records as of 1905, nor have you shown that I'm misinformed about anything else above.

"stop derailing from subject mtter which is skip james" The subject matter raised at the top of the thread was Stephen Calt's credibility: his ability to research well and say good things about people when appropriate, as Al put it in the first post. Calt's book about Skip James popularized the myth that pop musicians helped invent blues music. Elijah Wald, who has also popularized that myth (if you haven't heard of Elijah he wrote a very well-received book about Robert Johnson), happened to drop by this thread, and not give any evidence for that myth, because for over a decade now he can't, because it's a myth. The fact that Elijah can't do that helps support the point that Calt wasn't credible, the subject matter raised at the top of this thread.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 06:39 PM

joseph scott,, stop derailing from subject mtter which is skip james, please start another thread if you wish to talk about musicians pinching folk songs.
maybe not 1905, but very shortly after.. here McCormack was one of the first artists to record the popular ballad "I Hear You Calling Me" written in 1908 by Harold Harford and Charles Marshall; he recorded it twice for Odeon starting in 1908 and a further four times for Victor between 1910 and 1927 ? it became his best seller.[5] He was the first artist to record the famous World War I song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in 1914. He also recorded the song "Keep The Home Fires Burning" in 1917, though he was not the first to do so. He also sang songs expressive of Irish nationalism ? his recording of "The Wearing of the Green", a song about the Irish rebellion of 1798, encouraged 20th century efforts for Irish Home Rule ? and endorsed the Irish Nationalist estrangement from the United Kingdom. McCormack was associated particularly with the songs of Thomas Moore, notably "The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls", "The Minstrel Boy", "Believe Me If All (Those Endearing Young Charms)", and "The Last Rose of Summer".
Joseph Scott not only are you a pita, you are also misinformed see above,Kindly take your intellectual masturbation back to the little boys room


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 03:16 PM

"you can bet your life professional musicians were pinching and adapting folksongs" And from whom? Some other people called "folk musicians" I had just mentioned?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 02:07 PM

you seem very sure. English music hall artists were making recordings.

you can bet your life professional musicians were pinching and adapting folksongs, as they have in every era. John Gay was doing it with THe Beggars Opera in the 18th century.

Lizst in the 19th century adapted folk dance music.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 02:07 PM

you seem very sure. English music hall artists were making recordings.

you can bet your life professional musicians were pinching and adapting folksongs, as they have in every era. John Gay was doing it with THe Beggars Opera in the 18th century.

Lizst in the 19th century adapted folk dance music.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 01:50 PM

"folk musicians regularly have hit records" In 1905 they didn't.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 10:28 AM

well its not that. how it is for me - i think that different people have different experiences, and have different understanding of the terms.

i understand that people who have spent their lives researching folk music and making field recordings have one meaning in their minds.

but also there is the understanding of folk musicians. i remember Carthy saying that working in Steeleye Span had increased his audience so that he could play small theatres instead of just folk clubs. Over in Ireland - it gets really complicated where folk musicians regularly have hit records - Clannad, Planxty, Johnnu MacEvoy, Paddy REilly, THe Dubliners.

then there are the pro musicians who know what to play to get them dancing - not morris dancing, or singing to show solidairity - but singing and dancing for the joy of it. and that's a generational thing. Dull is the soul of man who doesn't sing I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts and dance the Hokey Cokey.

then theres the great public - who probably think Harry Field posing with an acoustic guitar is folk music.

i mean can you really be bothered to argue with any of them?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,pauperback
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 10:05 AM

There's a difference between don't care and don't understand, Al.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Sep 17 - 03:09 AM

no i think most people don't have this desire to classify music, and the pigeonholing gene is missing from most of us.

i can see it might be convenient for mozart lovers to have all his bits and pieces given a k number , or whatever. but why for the life of me Shady Grove (one in a thousand folk know) is a folksong, when John Denver's Country Roads (which nine out of ten folk know) is not a folksong - don't get it. never will!.

its really more to do with the neurotic desire of folk song experts to be a bit different from the rest of us. wouldn't you say?

God! I wish we could talk about Skip James!


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 09:22 PM

I don't have a dog in this fight - but I think some of you are being deliberately dense about what Joseph Scott - and everybody else in the known world - means by 'pop' music.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 06:43 PM

"they were playing one strand of the popular music of the day" Someone who sang "K.C. Moan" or "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" in 1905 was singing a folk song, not a pop song.

"Who were the pop musicians of the day for the african americans of the day, if not them?" People like Bert Williams. We could talk about "stage musicians" if that gets more to the point for some: who can give a plausible example of a stage musician who had helped invent blues music as of 1905, when blues music already existed among folk musicians, such as the railroad workers Elbert Bowman heard? No one can. Elijah can't, Abbott and Seroff can't, Calt couldn't, etc. Now if you take 1910 and Johnnie Woods, e.g., he _is_ an example of a stage musician who was singing blues as of 1910. And 1910 isn't 1905.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 06:21 PM

"why/how did it survive?" The earliest blues music survived among folk musicians by them learning it from each other as folk music. There was a popular music industry as of e.g. 1895 and 1905. As of 1905, "Rags" that were rags were being published as sheet music already but "Blues" that were blues were not yet, for instance. Meanwhile, as of 1905, blues music already existed as folk music, as heard e.g. by Elbert Bowman and Emmet Kennedy.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,CJ
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 06:13 PM

Of course the blues singers and players were pop. They played at the dances and in the bars - why? Because they were playing one strand of the popular music of the day. The pop music.

Who were the pop musicians of the day for the african americans of the day, if not them?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 06:08 PM

"well i don't suppose they invented blues music to be unpopular." A song being popular among folk musicians as of e.g. 1905 is a different issue from whether those folk musicians were pop musicians as opposed to folk musicians.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 06:06 PM

Mr Scott,

If blues music and it's predecessors wasn't "pop" - that is short for popular, in it's time why/how did it survive?

"Pop" today applies to material manufactured by a so called music industry and is a different kettle of fish.

I can't believe that you admit that you have really wasted a decade arguing about this.

Sad.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 05:08 PM

well i don't suppose they invented blues music to be unpopular.

however i want at this stage to completely disagree with the negative reviews of this remarkable book.
there's stuff i'm not keen on . but Calt does try to discuss Skip James's music, in a musicianly/guitarist's way.

its a serious book and tries to empathise with the utter rejection that many musician's deal with when their music becomes unfashionable/unprofitable - and yet the artist still feels impelled to go on developing.
it also deals with the way many people acquiesce in the the status and career opportunities their oppressive societies confer on them. i guess that's what Max Weber called functionalism. we are grateful for to have a function when the consequences of not having a function are awful.

Skip James was moonshiner, pimp, then factory worker in the society he was born into. That he was also a creative genius is matter of record. We aren't good to geniuses. THink of the Cornish fisherman painter Alfred Wallis dying penniless in the workhouse. The poet John Clare dying in the madhouse.

such people live at heights and depths unimaginable.   Calt does his best to convey some of this chaotic mental and emotional state and the intensity of the focus necessary to create at that level of excellence.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 01:21 PM

Elijah, at

http://www.elijahwald.com/rjohnson.html

your website still says

"WHAT IS BLUES? [...] first it was a black pop style[...] it retroactively became a folk style[...]"

I wonder if you'd consider changing that since, as discussed above in this thread and by you and me several times over more than a decade, you have zero credible evidence supporting the idea that pop musicians (black or otherwise) helped invent blues music. (See above for the issue that 1905 was different from 1910.)


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Sep 17 - 03:22 AM

"but he played a lot of material that came out of the same minstrel/ragtime tradition as a lot of stuff we now tend to call blues",
"we", you mean the royal we, ragtime is called ragtime not blues. he was not a blues singer never did he claim to be.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Elijah Wald
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 09:43 PM

Two quick additions on the Bahamian Blind Blake:
1. I have never seen any evidence that he named himself for the US Blind Blake -- it's quite possible, but since his given name was Blake and he was blind, it's equally possible that it was just a coincidence.
2. He was not a blues singer, but he played a lot of material that came out of the same minstrel/ragtime tradition as a lot of stuff we now tend to call blues, hokum, jug band, etc., including some unique pieces like "Jones, Oh Jones" and "The Foolish Frog" that I have good evidence were being sung by African Americans before the blues era but never got recorded on the mainland. Notably, Bessie Smith used a series of lines from "Jones, Oh Jones" (or whatever it was originally called) in her "Hateful Blues."


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 02:51 PM

ARE YOU TAKING THEMICHAEL


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: meself
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 10:47 AM

Mick is actually Michael.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 08:19 AM

rolling stone bill wyman did not use his real name he was bill perks


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 11:15 PM

I love Skip James and I have been playing "crow jane". I would like to read this book. I can recommend Dave Evans book on the Blues...as well.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 11:02 PM

At least they used their real names.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 07:53 PM

Tunesmith,he must have been good[Rice] made the wonderful commentabout the rolling stones sure those white boys want to play blues real bad ,and thats just what they do, play it real bad


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 03:13 PM

" Don't start me talkin'" but I thought I'd just mention that a guitar playing mate of mine toured with, and backed, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) in the UK in the 60s.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 11:34 AM

Thank you, appreciate it.

And now I bow out of this discussion, which seems to be going nowhere.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,N
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 10:06 AM

HO HO Your so funny Hilarious sparkling wit


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 09:37 AM

"None of that squit alters the fact that Skip James was a blues singer."

Good call I was concerned that you might have thought he was a Hawaiian guitarist.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,ned of the hill
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 09:32 AM

They    were very different stylistically


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 06:07 AM

Dick,

I find it quite funny that you discovered Sonny Boy Williamson through Mike Raven. Mike's programme was very good and required listening at that time but he was sometimes confused re the two Sonny Boys. Explaining the difference then playing an incorrect track.

Of course "Blues Singers" performed other types of material. Any musician/entertainer trying to scrape a living has to to give his audience or his A & R man what they they want to hear.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 01:15 AM

the music is weird. plaintive.
something like Hard Time Killing Floor - its hard to imagine in any other context than as a song coming out of a phonograph.
its not a drinking song. its not a song you can dance to - maybe as a smoocher....
a song for the kitchen . almost the same pace as Ewan MacColl singing The Ballad of Tam Linn. is that fanciful?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 12:00 AM

"Skippy tired."


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 11:30 PM

none of that squit alters the fact that Skip James was a blues singer.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 07:48 PM

No, apparently. And what is Dame Edith Evans doing here?

Sigh....


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 07:32 PM

its all getting a bit fractious - turning into one of those
what is folk music?
what is blues threads?

As Dame Edith Evans said (when asked about the true motivation of the character in a play), I think you are confusing me with someone who gives a fuck.....

Can we just try and focus on Skip James?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 06:44 PM

If "blues singer" means "someone who sings blues," then most recording artists were, up till relatively recently, blues singers. Much, maybe most, popular music of the 20th Century was at least blues-influenced when it wasn't outright blues, which means that a whole lot of rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, classic pop, country, jazz, swing, gospel, and more is in fact the work of blues singers.

My point -- an obvious one (I should hope) to any informed reader -- is that where pre-war black folk musicians were concerned, record company a&r men (and they were nearly all men) insisted on blues because releases labeled "blues" (issued in the so-called race series) had proved popular and profitable. But we know from field collecting up through the middle of the century that so-called blues singers had other kinds of material in their repertoires. The fact that only the blues part of their song lists got recorded commercially gives us a misleading idea of what their tastes were and what the totality of their repertoire was.

It also explains why all kinds of songs that weren't blues at all suddenly got "blues" attached to their titles. It was because the labels thought the b-word would enhance sales.

At times, non-blues material got recorded commercially, almost by accident, by "blues singers." I have no desire to carry on at length, and to no point, on that subject. I refer interested readers instead to the late Paul Oliver's superb Songsters & Saints (1984) for specifics.


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 05:50 PM

I discovered the second Sonny Boy before the first one, it was a long time ago probaly on the mike raven blues show in the mid sixties.
jerome clark, the phrase blues singer means someone who sings blues, in the same way jazz singer means someone who sings jazz, opera singer means someone who sings opera, is that clear? maybe you should take up collecting butterflies or trainspotting


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Cj
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 03:09 PM

C'mon, Dick, I love your playing and enthusiasm, but I can't let that fib get away - unless it really was you who discovered the second Sonny Boy Williamson first? Where were you? Or was he playing in Ballydehob?


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Subject: RE: Stephen Calt's biography of Skip James
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 02:59 PM

I confess I don't understand the need to pigeon-hole any African-American musician whose principal instrument was guitar as a "blues singer." I certainly don't expect it among persons, as here, who I would presume knew better.

Hurt and Lead Belly, who had broad repertories drawing from folk ballads, pop tunes, hymns, work chants, the occasional blues, and more, routinely get labeled "blues" musicians, usually by persons who've never actually listened to their records. A songster, on the other hand, was somebody who sang songs, period. According to no less than Johnny Shines, who would know if anybody did, Robert Johnson sometimes sang Sons of the Pioneers tunes and others learned from the radio. Maybe the phrase "bluesman" (or -woman) should be retired from discussion of pre-war vernacular performers.

The phrase "blues singer" surely has more to do with the early recording industry, which employed it as a marketing category, than with ground-level identification of local singers and players.


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