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'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical

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Cool Beans 02 Jan 07 - 12:12 PM
Big Al Whittle 02 Jan 07 - 12:35 PM
Big Al Whittle 03 Jan 07 - 11:19 AM
Fred McCormick 03 Jan 07 - 12:25 PM
M.Ted 03 Jan 07 - 05:13 PM
Big Al Whittle 04 Jan 07 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 04 Jan 07 - 10:04 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Jan 07 - 06:15 PM
M.Ted 05 Jan 07 - 02:00 AM
Big Al Whittle 05 Jan 07 - 02:24 AM
GUEST 19 Feb 07 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,charles smith 26 Sep 09 - 07:51 AM
Bobert 26 Sep 09 - 09:34 AM
Severn 27 Sep 09 - 07:48 AM
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Subject: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Cool Beans
Date: 02 Jan 07 - 12:12 PM

I haven't seen it so I can't vouch for it, but the York Theatre Company, in Manhattan (54th between Third and Lexington) is doing a show called "Blind Lemon Blues," which is about exactly what you think it's about. Show runs a couple weeks in February, then tours Belgium and the Netherlands. Here is a link for more info:
http://broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=14465


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Jan 07 - 12:35 PM

wow!

bout time!


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 03 Jan 07 - 11:19 AM

refresh

so many interesting songs - that should be one hell of a show


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 03 Jan 07 - 12:25 PM

Ai't seen the show and from the current tour itinerary, it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to. However, I noted an approving comment from August Wilson. Wilson once wrote a superb play about Ma Rainey (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom). If he rates Blind Lemon Blues then it sounds as if it is definitely rateable


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Jan 07 - 05:13 PM

This show is produced by the York Theatre Company, which only presents shows that are new,and in development--that means that the show is being changed all the time, based on the way it plays for the audience--so it is a great opportunity to see and even help to shape a show on it's way to broadway--I am going to try to see it during the short run, and hopefully, catch it when it comes back, and see how it's been changed--

Just a couple points of info--August Wilson passed away in Oct. 2005, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom takes place in a recording studio(as does this)--


Here's the blurb from York Theatre Company:

Blind Lemon Blues pays homage to the influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson, who emerged in the 1920's as the biggest selling country blues singer in America. Set in New York City in 1948 at the last recording session of the legendary Huddie Ledbetter--better known as Leadbelly--Blind Lemon Blues combines elements of traditional blues, gospel, R&B, soul, doo-wop, and rap to evoke the enduring legacy of Blind Lemon and his contemporaries: Blind Willie Johnson, Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Bobbie Cadillac, Lillian Miller and Leadbelly himself.


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Jan 07 - 04:06 AM

Pity.....theres so much in the original songs.

Not just the prodigious guitar technique, the words of BLJ's songs glitter with intensity. i seem to remember the lyrics of one song talking about the family being given back the body, after someone died in the electric chair - that kind of upclose imagination.

Lomax in his book about the blues called BLJ 'fat, dirty and depraved' - a phrase that's always stuck with me. then theres his terrible death on the streets - lost in a snow storm.

also the story in Elijah wald's Josh White book. Josh used to carry the hat for BLJ when he was a tiny kid of about nine years old. Apparently BLJ refused to buy shoes for Josh, made him tie bits of sack and suchlike around his feet - so it looked more pathetic to the people he was trying to beg from.

personally, I find the work itself very difficult to listen to, I have bought several albums and always been disappointed at the clarity of the recordings. I've never made a study of the technique, but it sounds quite impentratable.

I think a lot of people will have shared my experience and found this artists work rather inaccessible - by my god, there is substance there - maybe this musical is the one to bring it to a bigger audience.

More than enough for several novels


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 04 Jan 07 - 10:04 AM

I guess accessibility is in the ear of the beholder. I've listened to a lot of 78s in my life, including the flatter, murkier acoustic ones from before the coming of the electrical process c. 1928.

All I can say is, listen harder, and you'll begin to learn to hear THROUGH the surface noise and limitations in recording fidelity. Jefferson's a good candidate for digital cleanup of the sort that did so much for Duke Ellington, but he's there to be heard even without that, and well worth the listening.

I'm someone deeply influenced by Blind Lemon's singing, playing and sense of the blues. To me, growing up, Blind Lemon's music was like a voice in my inner ear. His singing and playing style engraved itself in my mind when I was still a kid. Lucky me, to have the chance to hear him early, so I had the energy and desire to work on hearing him well.

I'm not alone. For Southern pickers and many Northern ones, Lemon Jefferson's records were the most accessible and stunning examples across the racial barrier. His music was more easily assimilated by whites than most other bluesmen's -- few white performer could manage versions of, say, Charley Patton songs, still less the sort of thing being done by Kokomo Arnold or Robert Johnson.

By contrast, Lemon's songs and style bridged the racial gap relatively easily. During his career he probably had more white listeners than almost any other bluesman, and many of these learned and sang his better known songs. You'll find recorded white versions, for example, of Match Box Blues among others, and many more of his songs -- notably Black Snake Moan -- were sung informally that didn't reach record.

... and yes, I picture his death on that frozen street and I think in some ways it's a miracle he got that far, because he lived a high risk itinerant life with no eyes and yes, was apparently fairly repulsive in his habits. "Fat, dirty, depraved" and all, this was truly a man you might not want to have around the house. But his deft, unforgettable music still speaks volumes.

He had enormous influence on black and white music. You could even perhaps argue a case for his influence on Western Swing, particularly through Milton Brown's recordings -- Brown was a faithful and loving listener to blues records, though he thoroughly transmuted them in performance of course. But his influence was more measurable nearer at hand. He was, for many southern whites as well as blacks, the voice of the blues.

He's a big part of the way I hear and do music. Bob


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Jan 07 - 06:15 PM

I think I learned matchbox blues from Hamish Imlach, or it could have been around the same time I heard the recordings of rambling jack Eliot. Also Mike Cooper of Reading folk club did a couple of Blind lemons songs - this was about 1964-5.

I think I understood the songs in those forms - but when I heard the original recording - I realised I was a long way out of my depth. I will listen again. To be honest I found robert Johnson quite a hard listen intially. I know some people say they were blown away from the word go - but I wasn't.

as you say he was much more commercially successful then RJ - so I suppose he can't be THAT inaccessible.


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: M.Ted
Date: 05 Jan 07 - 02:00 AM

When you listen again, I am sure you won't find him nearly as daunting. One thing to remember is that he was relatively old when he did his recording work, and had been playing for a very long time, so he had an enormous bag of musical tricks to draw on when he played.

If memory servers, he once made three recordings of the same tune in as many days, with different words and breaks each time.

He segues back and forth between chords, bass lines, and leads, which can seem a bit overwhelming, but the the rhythm figure is sharp, clean and solid as a rock-and the vocal always bounces off the rhythm-- so it's really very simple--and great.


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 07 - 02:24 AM

When you think about it, theres a sort of King Lear tragic quality about that death in the snowstorm.


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 07:19 PM

The show at the York Theatre is great, if you get a chance go see it and you will not be disappointed. The singers and guitarist are first rate and the show looks great on stage. Two hours of the best blues you will ever hear and a good story too.


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: GUEST,charles smith
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 07:51 AM

amazing production with a dynamic cast and brilliant lead in akin babatunde' starring as bind lemon. a must see...babatunde should win an obie award for his performance


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Bobert
Date: 26 Sep 09 - 09:34 AM

Another Blind Lemon fan here...

I frequently perform "Please Keep My Grave Kept Clean" and chose it to include on my CD, "13 Shades of Blues"

B~ (Sidewalk Bob)


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Subject: RE: 'Blind Lemon Blues,' the musical
From: Severn
Date: 27 Sep 09 - 07:48 AM

As far as a cleanup job on the originals goes, UK reissue specialists JSP Records did the best cleanup job that they could on the 4 CD set of the complete 94 sides "Blind Lemon Jefferson" (JSP 7706). Good Lemon, indeed, from a bunch of Limeys! Of course, he originally recorded for Paramount, whose techniques and recorded sound were bad, even for the days of 78s, so I doubt anyone could ever coax the cleaned-up sound quality that, say, Columbia or RCA could get out of their superior sounding masters Ellington and Armstrong reissues, though JSP proved it could a good and more affordable job on their Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens or Charlie Poole sets that compete with the deluxe Columbia sets. The issue of UK copyright and royalty payment laws and the ability of JSP or Proper to price cheaper than major company and the likes of German Bear Family reissues, of course, are another can of worms entirely for another thread.


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