MIXED BAG – #6
While I am mainly something of a Luddite, I have picked up on a few interesting web sites on the internet that would be of interest to our readers. Most are not exclusively “blues” oriented, but contain variable amounts of “blues content” that make them worth investigating. In no order of importance or interest, here are a few, mainly things that I have stumbled upon by accident or have been recommended to me by others.. So “A Luddite’s Guide to Blogs”, then!
I.) The former editor of GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE Jas Obrecht has recently begun a “blog” of his own writings… needless to say it has a guitar-centric point-of-view! A good writer, he has pieces on many blues guitarists of the past, including Tampa Red, and Blind Blake; one on open guitar tunings, and another on George W. Johnson, the first Black recording star of the late 19th/early 20th Century. More recently (Dec 2010) he has posted pieces on Atlanta area artists, mainly newly-written for this blog. He thought it’d be just one piece on McTell, and another on everybody else, but not to be! He’s done six in all: McTell, Buddy Moss, Curley Weaver, the Hicks brothers (Barbecue Bob and Laughing Charlie Lincoln), Peg Leg Howell and his gang, plus a preamble to the series. Each piece is a model of depth and brevity (not as contradictory a it sounds), focusing mainly on the recordings of all mentioned (plus some other ancillary folks), but getting in basic biographical data when known. Each article contains photos where available, plus a good run-down of each artist’s recording career. Go to: http://jasobrecht.com/ to see what he’s done.
II.) Chris Albertson is a name to be reckoned with by us all, if only for his excellent Bessie Smith book and the Columbia reissues of her work. Besides that, he is responsible for producing many another important re-issue, plus scads of “new” recordings back in the sixties for the likes of Prestige, and Riverside Records that focused on older musicians who would have been otherwise ignored! My favorites of his productions are the (now) two Lonnie Johnson albums with guitarist Elmer Snowden and bassist Wendell Marshall that came out initially on Prestige/Bluesville (“Blues & Ballads”) and later on OBC (the second entitled “Blues, Ballad, and Jumpin’ Jazz”). I mention these in particular because Chris has included some tapes on his blog by Johnson and Snowden that were done on his old radio show in Philadelphia ca. 1960 that bear listening to and can be found on: http://stomp-off.blogspot.com/. His postings are mainly jazz oriented (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but are all interesting to an inquiring mind! There’s some interesting audio regarding Bessie Smith, interviews with some of the folks in her life back in the day. His site will translate out of English for those whose same is weak – Albertson is originally from Denmark.
III.) There are a couple of web sites that are almost exclusively blues oriented. One is the “Blindman’s Blues Forum” that comes out of the UK and covers blues of all hues, plus some other subjects that are otherwise… even sports… and something called Blindman’s Café that is very broad (no politics, though!). I find it very collegial and enjoyable, if not always terribly profound. You can take a look at the site at: http://blindman.15.forumer.com/ to see what’s on offer.
Another web site that is more narrowly focused is “Weenie Campbell” (named after a non-existent legendary blues person) – it tends to deal with “country blues” only in all its many facets. Much is oriented towards those who play the music (guitarist John Miller is one of the many contributors), but that’s not necessary to play to enjoy the postings. There is also a continuous “radio” show playing nothing but such music – called The Weenie Juke Box – that can be listened to at one’s leisure. Past postings can be located under “Forum Rags” to see what’s happened in the past… information is saved for all! To get there, go to: http://weeniecampbell.com/mambo/ and have a look around.
Two final blues-specific sites are heavily moderated with gate-keepers… one pre-war, one post-war and their interchanges often turn into hissy fits, but there is good information there as folks all try to cram as many angels onto a pin head as they can. Sometime there is too much information! If interested, try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pre-war-blues for the first, then: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/post-war-blues for the latter. There are daily exchanges that often are thought-provoking; then there are others that make one shake one’s head in amusement or horror, or somewhere in between. There are too many proprietarial folks out there and there are a number who congregate here – come on, folks, get a life, and let’s share and share alike! As Rodney King once said, “Why can’t we all get along?”
IV.) When it comes to blues discography, there is one site run by a German with way too much time on his hands – Stefan Wirtz has put together listings for a large number of artists, as well a lot of the specialist labels of yore. Yes, he’s done one for my old label, Trix Records, but that’s not why I recommend him. He’s quite meticulous and open to additions and corrections. His artist choices may be a bit idiosyncratic, but the information is pretty up-to-date and he keeps on top of things very well. To find his work, go to: http://www.wirz.de/music/american.htm and then follow the links to whatever takes your fancy in the realm of American vernacular music… blues based. His stuff is nicely laid out with photos, dates, and other ephemera, and generally quite readable visually, too! I’m sure that there are others, but I haven’t stumbled upon them as yet.
V.) Blues lyrics are another realm that can be entered on the web: I have found Michael Taft’s web site that deals with some song lyrics to be of some value. An American with knowledge of much of the language used, his transcriptions are quite good. For a look at what he’s done go to: http://www.dylan61.se/taft.htm to see what you can see. While words are not my strong point, he seems to have done a good job… I also have his lyric concordance back with all my stuff in storage in NJ. This will do until I am reunited with all my shit! (I also have here in hand/boxes the late R.R. McLeod’s books of transcriptions from Yazoo and Document (incomplete) releases.)
VI.) Record labels can be found to have sites as well. Angela Mack is heading one for the legendary Paramount label that can be found at: http://paramountshome.org/. There are articles and photos concerning the company’s life story before, during, and after their plunge into record making. Gennett Records has one as well: http://www.starrgennett.org/ that looks good. I am sure that there are others, but I’ve not stumbled upon them as yet. Then there’s always Wikipedia!!
Peter B. Lowry
Since then, I have partially joined the 21st Century and had my son, Julian Casey-Lowry, create this so that I can collect my deadly prose and impose it on the world at large! He-he-he-he.