Harlem Street Singer – Rev. Gary Davis

I watched the documentary film Harlem Street Singer about the life of Reverend Gary Davis.

His songs have interested me for years thanks to Jorma Kaukonen faithful renditions. But I didn’t know anything about the person behind those songs.

I learned that Rev. Gary Davis rose from abject poverty in North Carolina and that he was nearly blind from birth. He taught himself how to play the guitar and to improvise songs. He got married and eventually moved to New York.  He was a hardy soul who survived on the streets of Harlem as a musician. He taught guitar in order to make a living. He provided lessons right up until his death at age 76 in 1972.  Amongst his star pupils were Dave Van Ronk, David Bromberg, Bob Weir, Roy Book Binder, and Stefan Grossman. Woody Mann who was his student for four years serves as co-producer and responsible for the music for Harlem Street Singer.

Blind Gary Davis was a purveyor of the Piedmont Blues which refers to a guitar style known as the Piedmont fingerstyle.  It is characterized by a fingerpicking approach in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others.[2]

His versatility as a musician allowed him to create the intersection of blues, folk, and gospel. His mastery of each idiom truly stood him apart.

The folk revival of the 1960s jettisoned Davis’s career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his version of “Samson and Delilah“, also known as “If I Had My Way”.

Reverend Gary Davis who never had any children of his own, proudly claimed these guitar students as his sons. Thankfully for you and I they honor his tutelage by paying it forward.

 

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Thank God for Eddie Kramer

I arose early to experience in full,  Both Sides of the Sky, the third album in a posthumous trilogy featuring the best of Jimi Hendrix’s unreleased studio recordings. The Authorized Hendrix Family Edition includes a 24-page booklet filled with rare photos and detailed liner notes.  I sip my morning coffee and delve into the writings of co-producer John McDermott to increase my perspective about the significance of these 13 recordings.

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I’ve always admired producer and engineer Eddie Kramer. He is more than just the Jimi Hendrix archivist. NPR Music wrote a piece about him yesterday, Eddie Kramer Completes Posthumous Jimi Hendrix Trilogy With ‘Both Sides Of The Sky’

Eddie Kramer is our conduit to the artistic magic of Jimi Hendrix.

Kramer says he still hears Hendrix’s voice in his head directing him in the studio.

“He did have a tendency to describe sounds in colors,” Kramer says. “If he said, ‘Hey, man, give me some of that green,’ I knew exactly what he meant; it was reverb. Or if he said, ‘Hey, man, more red,’ I knew it was distortion. And then if it went purple, it was really stupid distortion.”

Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music’s Hometown

One of my favorite music authors is Robert Gordon. He just released his latest book , Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music’s Hometown with Bloomsbury Publishing.

Memphis Rent Party

“Robert’s feel for his subject is very similar to the subjects’ feel for their music. Blues, being the wellspring of all American music for over a century, is always worth studying. Robert does it right.” –  Keith Richards

Give it a glance. Robert Gordon, a Memphis native citizen has been writing about Memphis music and history for thirty years.

If you plan to be in LA on April 26th, this related event may be of interest to you.
https://www.grammymuseum.org/events/detail/memphis-rent-party/

Two Trains Runnin’ – Grammy 2018 Nominated

The Grammy 2018 Nominations were announced today for the 60th Grammy Awards to take place at Madison Square Garden. They will air January 28th at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

This category caught my eye.

Best Music Film:

One More Time With Feeling — Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Long Strange Trip — (The Grateful Dead)
The Defiant Ones — (Various Artists)
Soundbreaking— (Various Artists)
Two Trains Runnin’ — (Various Artists)

I have seen three of the five films (marked in bold) this year.  I have yet to process Nick Cave after trying several times to listen to him and his band on Spotify and Apple Music. Perhaps when I see the One More Time With Feeling documentary I will get the video/audio syntax I need to appreciate him better. Adds this film to my to-do list.

Being an active blues historian I was surprised to have not read about Two Trains Runnin’ until today. I am eager to see this documentary as soon as its distribution widens.

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Gregg Allman – “My Only True Friend”

The music of our heart is still heavy reflecting on Gregg Allman’s passing. I am forever thankful for the blues music he has introduced me to with The Allman Brothers Band and on his poignant solo albums.

I was recently acknowledged by Gregg’s official store with a thank you for pre-purchasing his final album Southern Blood.  

Thank you for placing an early order for Gregg Allman’s SOUTHERN BLOOD vinyl (out 9/8). We know many of you have been waiting awhile for the finished album, and you placed an order without a lot of information. As our way of showing our appreciation, we’re letting you know: 

You will receive the limited edition SOUTHERN BLOOD LP at no extra charge. None of these items will be part of the future regular edition.

Details:
    (a) Heavyweight, hardwood colored vinyl
    (b) Portrait lithograph (12” x 12”)
    (c) Two bonus live tracks (included with a download card).
    (d) Full album download card

That left me reassured as I have come to appreciate how accommodating the Allman community and Music Today have been over the years.

In anticipation of next month’s order, I am sharing this recent video of “My Only True Friend” which reveals the warm spirit found inside Gregg’s recording session.

 

American Epic: Part 1, The Big Bang

I have been waiting for this Only on PBS music series to be viewable for four years. The production has a magic appeal as a combination of music history, Americana, and the significance of the lacquered phonograph record.

It was fortuitous for the series to begin with the hills of Appalachia and the Carter Family. They are the roots of country music. I love the risks they took to seek out a long distance audition being held at the famed Bristol Sessions with Ralph Peer.

Ralph Peer was an electrical engineer, responsible for the invention of the modern recording equipment.  It was said of him, “He must have been a visionary”, due to the profound impact he had on finding talented artists and recording them.

I loved learning more about the original Carter Family which consisted of Alvin Pleasant “A.P.” Delaney Carter (1891–1960), his wife Sara Dougherty Carter (1898–1979), and his sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter (1909–1978).

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I was moved to see a rare collaboration in color video with Sara and Maybelle Carter perform with Johnny Cash on The Johnny Cash Show, Nov. 18, 1970.

American Epic is beautiful in its curation. The videos are painstakingly articulated as are the graphics and the b&w/color stills.

The episode shifts to the home of the blues, Memphis, Tennessee. The focus here is the seminal influence of the Memphis Jug Band. Another recording find of Ralph Peer

We learn about Will Shade a founding member of the Memphis Jug Band. The jug creates an interesting context on the harmony and backdrop of their music.

We get to see and hear the original 78rpm records”Newport News Blues”, “On The Road Again (1928)”, “Stealin, Stealin”, “Cocaine Habit Blues (1930)”

It was smart to see American Epic incorporate two blues historians, Taj Mahal and Charlie Musselwhite. They each provide us with a firm foundation of the blues curated with all the love in their heart. I was fortunate to write a term paper on Taj Mahal as a roots/blues musician when I minored in music in college.

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You will want to see the segment where Charlie Musslewhite in the Memphis Police building plays the guitar and sings the heartfelt song Will Shade taught him, “I’ll Get A Break Someday”.

Threaded throughout the episode is producer/musician/pressing plant owner Jack White our modern day preservationist of rare music and phonograph records. He performs in the studio with Nas and Lillie Mae on violin and other musicians.

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Jack White’s record company, Third Man Records, is selling the American Epic artists reissues on their Web site. There are lots of great roots musicians to get to know better and hopefully add to your vinyl music collection.