Alabama Country Blues & Gospel
Complete Recorded Works (1927-1934)
Featuring the recordings of:
Wiley Barner, vocal; accompanied by Jimmy Allen, piano; Will Jennings, guitar. (Red Hot) Ole Mose (Moses Mason), vocal / guitar. Rev. Moses Mason, vocal / guitar on 4, 5; or: vocal; accompanied by on 6, 7. Moses Mason: Sermons; unaccompanied. (Red Hot) Ole Mose (Moses Mason), vocal / banjo. Edward Thompson (also as Tenderfoot Edwards) vocal / guitar. Slim Duckett, Pig Norwood, vocal; accompanied by own guitar duet. Marshall Owens, vocal / guitar. Tom Bradford, vocal / guitar.
Genres; Blues Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Alabama Blues Guitar Evangelists, Blues Piano, Gospel, Sermon, Songster, Gospel
Abridged from this albums booklet notes. Alabamas significance as a region supporting a fertile blues tradition has been somewhat overshadowed by the surrounding states of Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas, and even Tennessee. This is partly the result of the bias of latter-day historians and record collectors who have favoured the Mississippi guitarists and partly due to the strength of other aspects of the black vernacular tradition in Alabama. Birmingham, the states largest city was famous for its pianists – from the mysterious Lost John (who was credited by Perry Bradford with introducing the bass patterns associated with boogie woogie to Chicago) through Cow Cow Davenport and Pine Top Smith to Walter Roland. Another dominant musical force in Alabama in the period between the World Wars was a vocal quartet tradition, with groups like the Birmingham Jubilee Quartet recording far more frequently than any of the areas blues artists. Still, with its pioneering pianists, two major rural harmonica stylists (Jaybird Coleman and George Bullet Williams), a guitarist as recognizable as Ed Bell / Barefoot Bill, and the distinction of having some of the earliest recorded blues performers hail from the vicinity (Lucille Bogan / Bessie Jackson, and Daddy Stovepipe), it is hard to fathom why Alabama is not better known for the blues. The older styled vocalist Wiley Barner cut his two titles at the tail end of sessions recorded on location in Birmingham for the Gennett label. His piano accompanist, Jimmy Mien, quotes the turnaround riff to Charles Davenports Cow Cow Blues on his introduction to My Gal Treats Me Mean. The recordings by Moses Mason offer an interesting glimpse at some aspects of black song that were infrequently recorded. His eight titles were part of a fascinating session for Paramount in Chicago in January 1928 that captured Charlie Jacksons pre-blues Long Gone Lost John, the archaic religious stylings of Blind Willie Davis and the remarkable fiddle/guitar combination of Blind Joe Taggarts Been Listening All The Day and Goin To Rest Where Jesus Is. Masons sermons have the ring of authenticity and suggest that he was a genuine preacher, and the two secular pieces, (essentially street vendors cries with guitar or banjo accompaniment), are also quite convincing. Nothing is known about Edward Thompson, who, both stylistically and with regard to place name references, is all over the map. Seven Sister Blues uses the generic roll and tumble and new way of spelling sweet old Tennessee verses while not once mentioning the seven sisters and musically would not sound out of place in Blind Boy Fullers repertory. Luceen (Slim) Duckett and One Leg Sam (Norwood) were residents in Jackson, Mississippi at the time of their session at the King Edward Hotel in 1930. Duckett and Norwoods unadorned versions of the standard spirituals When The Saints Go Marching In, I Want To Go Where Jesus Is, Sister Mary Wore Three Lengths Of Chain and You Gotta Stand Judgement For Yourself succeed largely on their simplicity and the strength of the vocals. Marshall Owens two surviving Paramount sides are fine primitive blues performed in the hypnotic strummed manner popular with the songsters of his generation. Although the two sides recorded for the Library of Congress by Tom Bradford suffer from the omnipresent speed fluctuations that were the result of the Archives poor portable equipment, his hobos train odyssey Going North was firmly in the tradition of classic travelogues like Booker Whites New Frisco Train and The Panama Limited.
The broad span of styles included in this collection should help to solidify Alabamas place as a region rich in the tradition known as the blues.
Ken Romanowsky Copyright l993 & 2007 Document Records