general opinion on blues

A discussion of the blues for blues lovers and fans.

Re: general opinion on blues

Postby Jbyrd 88 » Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:00 pm

I also notice that few guitar players nowdays will even think about playing without a dozen foot pedals and a lot of sound effects that make a guitar sound like anything except a guitar. Rare is the guitarist who has nothing between his guitar and amp except a cord. I freguently play piano with some guys who were once Bobby Whitlock's band with a guitarist named Barry Swain who uses a '62 Stratocaster and an old Fender De'ville tube amp. His cord is so old it is cloth covered instead of rubber or whatever. He can make any sound he wants without the effects box. He told me that when he started playing there was no such thing as effects except for the ones you could cause with you fingers and the tone and volume knobs....you had to learn to make the sounds you wanted without the help of an electronic device. He tells me that he doesn't use one now because because he's just too damn ignorant about electronic gadgets, and too old to learn any new way to play. He can produce sounds that will take your breath away by simply twisting knobs and stretching strings and occassionally overdriving his amplifier. I've seen several "hot shot" guitar players sit in and play Barry's old Strat. They always get this lost forlorn look on their faces when they look down and there are no foot pedals....no way to make his guitar sound like a Hammond B-3....which seems strange to me anyhow. These guys are generally considered good guitarists, but without the effects they are lost as a goose. Don't know what to do with their feet. I know way too many musicians, guitarists mainly, who think they can go to the music store and buy that one more gadget...that "magic pill" that will make them as good as they wish they were. I know from 50 years of experience that practice is the only thing that will make you better.....I mean, you should own as high quality instrument as you can afford because quality instruments are just that..quality instruments. But, as I'm sure many of you are aware, you can lose what you gained in a month's practicing in just one week of not playing or practicing. I know one guy who has an old Gibson 335 and a Super Reverb Amp...both pieces of equipment are vintage and in perfect condition and he puts this $35 box in line between the guitar and amp that ruins the whole beautiful rig. I told him he should have saved all the money he spent on the axe and amp and just bought himself a $35 piece of crap guitar because that's what it sounds like with the effects, and that imo there should be some kind of law on the books against doing such a thing to such a fantastic rig. Give me a straight guitarists who can make the sound effects he wants while still maintaining that guitar sound, a bass player and drummer who can play a simple shuffle, and I'm happy as a pig in sh&^. Departing from the guitarists for a second, it's also surprising to me how many "hot" drummers there are around who can't for the life of themselves play a simple shuffle. Seems to me that a shuffle should be one of the first basic things a drummer should learn. I also play with a bass player who plays a style I've never seen anyone else do before. His thumb is always on the back of the neck straight behind the G dot and no matter what kind of run he plays, that thumb never moves from that spot. He's says very simply "There ain't but twelve notes in the whole damn universe and they are all twelve within reach of that G dot." As you can imagine, with all his notes coming from the lowest part of the neck, he puts a lot of bottom in the music....which he says is the job of the bass player. As for myself, I play like Jim Dickinson told me he plays. Colorless is what he calls it. He said that unless you are playing a ride on the piano no one should even notice that you are playing......unless you stop playing. These methods may be well out of the way blues musicians think today....we're all old men with old ideas.....but we can still pack the house on Saturday night. To quote Joe Cocker "Simplicity is a powerful thang".

As a side note I noticed on another post where Taj Mahal is being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. I'm one of Taj's biggest fans and have been since I first heard him do "She Caught the Katy" about 40 years ago. I have never considered him a blues artist. I consider him more like a "songster" who plays all kinds of music. Don't get me wrong....I love him. But I guess blues was the only genre he would come close to fitting in. I'll probably get a lot of flack from that opinion....but I can take it.

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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby goldbrick » Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:21 am

Its been like 40 years but I think it was 'Wolf who was on Shindig with the Stones-- I was about 11 or 12 and remember thinkin' Wolf was the coolest dude ever and Mick was a dork ( still do ).
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby Jbyrd 88 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:23 pm

My mistake, it was Howlin' Wolf and not Muddy Waters. The Stones were so intertwined with both that I got them confused.

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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby unquashable » Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:53 pm

I guess I'm lucky that where I live there are still people who dig the blues. My friends and I all have diverse musical tastes, but I don't think I've ever caught flak for playing some blues tunes or throwin' some Fred McDowell on the record player. I jam with lots of my buddies and they're all peachy-keen on playin a boogie. Did I mention I'm only 24? I suppose I should be grateful that I was exposed to this music early (my dad is a huge blues/classic rock fan). I fully agree with the previous posts that point out that many who dont love the blues have never really listened to it. I also agree with those who pointed out that most of us have genres of music that we just dont "get." Then again, taste changes. I'm pretty sure that in a bout of teenage hyperbole I once stated "If you ever find me willingly listening to country music, shoot me." But now I'm actually starting to like the stuff. There's something truely magical about the sound of the pedal steel. Oh, gotta go back to work. Keep on livin', lovin' and playin.'
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby ricochet » Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:44 pm

unquashable wrote:There's something truly magical about the sound of the pedal steel.

Oh yeah, for sure!
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby shaw » Sat Jun 06, 2009 7:56 am

I'm one of those who used to hate blues music, couldn't stand it. All sounded the same, and lacked creativity (I mean, it's all just E, A, B7 anyway, isn't it?) And since I wouldn't listen to it at home, I'd only hear poor examples of it - the kid in the guitar store who'd know 5 licks and play them one after another, never playing an actual song. Or the bar bands, where every harmonica solo was just the same as the last.

But I love old-time folk, so I'd hear Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis (both already mentioned), Frank Stokes, alongside Clarence Ashley, Doc Boggs, Dave Macon, etc. So I liked that, because it was "folk", not "blues". Because I liked folk and hated blues.

A little more than a year ago, I took up acoustic again (after maybe 6 years of no playing). I wanted to play celtic and contemporary stuff (Bensusan, Juber, Hedges, Kirtley, etc.). It was too hard, I looked for easier stuff and tried a few ragtime things (always liked ragtime, cause it wasn't blues, of course). "St. Louis Tickle" was also too much of challenge, so after a month, I again looked around for something I could actually play.

One day, I learned "Shake that Thing". My wife came home, heard me and gasped, "You don't want to play like that, do you?!". "Of course not," I assured her, "it's just to help me learn to play real stuff."

It's about a year since then, and now I only want to play blues and folk (folk with a blues-flavor that is). Granted, I have most love for the ragtime-blues / "folk-ish" blues genres (Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, Rev. Davis, John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Frank Stokes, Pink Anderson is what I mostly listen to), but I can't stand listening to other pop/rock/alternative stuff anymore. It sounds somehow cheap and artifical, with no back bone or beauty. It struck me yesturday - why do I need such a good stereo, everything I listen to is from scratchy records?

My wife is also slowly getting converted, but it does take time. She loves John Hurt, and after a few beers will sing full out along with Davis' "I am the Light of this World". Still can't believe she doesn't like McTell's singing, though!

As a person who used to hate the blues, I'm so happy I discovered a world of music that I love, more than I've ever loved any type of music. I love listening, playing and reading about the hisory of it, and have never been happier.
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby maxx england » Sat Jun 06, 2009 7:24 pm

There's quite a lot of people in the world now finding music that has some sort of core of honesty and truth to it. Doesn't seem to matter what it is, so long as it's not Industry Product.
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby Jbyrd 88 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:39 pm

First of all, just in my own humble opinion, the blues is first a feeling.....I'm speaking from a musician's point of view.......I'm old and have been playing all my life....well since about twelve, and I'm 62 now. I started out playing in Delta Juke Joints for white crowds when I was about 14. I played country music then....stuff like Cold Cold Heart, Crying Time, You Win Again, Crazy Arms and etc. Low down country in a joint with chicken wire around the bandstand....and I was too young to even be there.

Then the Beatles and The Stones came along and the guitar player in this country band and myself decided we'd like playing Rock and Roll. So we quit the country and joined a Rock and Roll band. A loud one. We could knock out windows with Gloria and My Generation. Then along came the Vietnam War and the band split up.

I got out of the Army on a Friday and had a gig waiting at the local VFW the next night. It was back to that low down country again. Playing for my parent's generation. Singing the Tennessee Waltz.

Then I got with some guys who had horns and were covering a lot of Stax Music.....Sam and Dave, James and Bobby Purify, Rufus Thomas and folks like Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett. It was loads of fun, and we got paid well for it. But it came to an end. Then one night I walked into a blues club in Clarksdale, Ms. on a jam night. I sat in and played a couple of songs and ended up getting a pretty good gig with a local blues band. I wasn't a blues pianist....I was a redneck, honky tonk, low down country....you know. So all I knew to do when I sat in was play what I knew how to play. I played that low down country style that I had learned at 14 and everyone thought I was playing the blues. I hear lots and lots of technical discussions on music theory here on this site. I don't even know what a pentatonic scale is.......I think folks would benefit more and the blues would have more fans if everyone who played the blues understood that "Blues Feeling"

Just MY 2 cents
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby maxx england » Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:03 pm

That's it really, the Blues Feeling. There's "straight" stuff out there that qualifies, ever hear Freddie Mercury sing "What are we living for"? Weeks from death and climbing off a couch in the studio to give everything he'd got in one last go. If that ain't blues, nothing is.
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby jeffl » Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:37 pm

One of the guitar players in our jam bunch told me yesterday that he wishes he could get into the blues more. He said he didn't quite see what the appeal was. I play harp, so it's easy for me to get into it, but I had a hard time explaining the idea of "groove" to him. And then we got on the topic of the different types of blues, and the elements of Delta blues that are not as pronounced in Piedmont blues for example. I started out playin' country blues and piedmont blues, because of my early influences, but I soon discovered that the hooks and groove of Delta and Chicago blues had an almost hypnotic effect on me...to the point that I understood how J.L.Hooker could play a boogie for 3 hours, 'cuz I occasionally did it. Alot of the guys I play with can't handle the general simplicity of most blues tunes. The guitar players mostly jus' don't have the licks needed to make often simple music interesting.
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby Bournio » Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:00 pm

jeffl wrote:to the point that I understood how J.L.Hooker could play a boogie for 3 hours, 'cuz I occasionally did it. Alot of the guys I play with can't handle the general simplicity of most blues tunes. The guitar players mostly jus' don't have the licks needed to make often simple music interesting.


I do that!!

I love bouncing into notes and chords, sorta hit the note/barre below it off the beat and slide up so you hit the chord on the beat. In A with a bit of hammers on the high and low G you get and the odd 2 extra fingers to make some crazy B7 chord. And to play odd runs but keeping stomping!

I love it when people go "Uh, you didn't play anything complicated, but i wanted to tap my feet and dance and nod my head"
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby jeffl » Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:14 pm

Years ago I marvelled at how good blues players came up with all these interesting new sounding riffs using so few notes. I bet I played for 15 years before I got to the point where I was able to come up with new riffs on the fly. I think it was due to the fact that I just hadn't played enough. Guys that are gigging all the time, especially if it's 4-5 days a week, really improve if they keep it up for a few years.
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby maxx england » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:38 pm

Bournio wrote: I love it when people go "Uh, you didn't play anything complicated, but i wanted to tap my feet and dance and nod my head"


It's a hell of a power to have in your hands, that ability to grab hold of the motor nerves of complete strangers and make them do that. I've said it before, that's why priests and other rulers hate us, we hold The Secret :mrgreen:
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby Jbyrd 88 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 5:01 pm

Maxx,
You should hear James "Super Chickan" Johnson do "sittin' in la la waitin' for my ya ya uh huh"
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Re: general opinion on blues

Postby farmaz » Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:43 pm

Jbyrd 88 wrote:First of all, just in my own humble opinion, the blues is first a feeling.....I'm speaking from a musician's point of view.......I'm old and have been playing all my life....well since about twelve, and I'm 62 now. I started out playing in Delta Juke Joints for white crowds when I was about 14.


i agree 100% with you there about blues being a feeling. thats what got me with delta blues music there is a vibe to it. i mean i am from the uk i've never been under jim crow law, been ripped off in share cropping, been on levee camps etc but the music that came from the 30's/40's in the delta has a feeling to it that comes through the speakers & hooks into you, kinda like that film "The Ring" when she comes through the tv lol. when i hear fred mcdowell sing red cross store i can feel the hunger & depression they must have felt too.

As if you played in juke joints!!! what kinda dates did you play in them (i.e. 1950's etc.....) what were they like?
I have a mental image of some shack with rough men saw dust floor, cheap backroom brew booze & sawdust floor's. any story's from the juke joints that stick in your mind that you care to share.......
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