Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Aces' Breakdown" - The Four Aces




Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Fourteen: "Aces' Breakdown" performed by The Four Aces. Recorded in New Orleans on April 2, 1938. Original issue Bluebird 2045.

The Four Aces were a Cajun group that began, in 1934, as a backing band for fiddler and Cajun music pioneer, Leo Soileau. The group originally consisted of Floyd Shreve and Dewey Landry on guitars and Tony Gonzales on bass and drums. Gonzales became the first drummer to appear on a Cajun recording when he performed on the Aces' debut session for Bluebird. The group moved to Decca the following year. After Soileau's departure in the late '30s, Floyd Shreve, who also recorded and performed with the Hackberry Ramblers, took over the group. Replacing Soileau on fiddle was Boyce Jones.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, no biographical information (including birth and death dates) was available on Shreve, Landry, Gonzales, or Jones. If anybody has any such information, please e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment.

"Aces' Breakdown" is the second of only two instrumental pieces on this volume of the Anthology. It was recorded in a makeshift studio at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans on April 2, 1938. A little over six months later, Floyd Shreve would return to the St. Charles Hotel, this time with the Hackberry Ramblers, to record "Dans Le Grand Bois." Like the previous selection, "Aces' Breakdown" is a hybrid of Cajun music and traditional country and string band music. It demonstrates the cross-pollination of styles that occurred between Louisiana and Texas.

The recording is spirited and would fit comfortably on the "Social Music" volume of the Anthology. Members of the Four Aces can be heard whooping and shouting throughout the record. The song itself is a medley of fiddle tunes, including the polka "Flop Eared Mule." The group is joined by a pianist on this recording, believed to be Robert Thibodeaux, who made his own recordings at the same session.

"Aces' Breakdown" is the second recording on the Anthology to include a drum. It is difficult to know whether this was intentional on Smith's part, but it seems fitting that he closes the Anthology with the appearance of an instrument that would come to define American music during the post-war era. Virtually all genres of American music today, including country, feature drums.

With this selection, we complete not only the "Lost" Volume of the Anthology, but the Anthology itself. In our next and final entry, we will look back at the Anthology and try to examine what we have learned.

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Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a clip from the film The Big Easy (1987) that features Cajun dancing...


Download and listen to The Four Aces - "Aces' Breakdown"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)" - Hackberry Ramblers


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Thirteen: "Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)" performed by Hackberry Ramblers. Recorded in New Orleans on October 22, 1938. Original issue Bluebird 2059.

The Hackberry Ramblers are an influential Cajun group based in Hackberry, Louisiana, a small town in the southwestern portion of the state. The group was founded by fiddler Luderin Darbone (January 14, 1913 - November 21, 2008) and accordionist Edwin Duhon (June 11, 1910 - February 26, 2006) in 1933. While the group is famous for their interpretations of traditional Cajun music, they also perform western swing, blues, and rockabilly. Despite numerous changes in personnel over the years, the Hackberry Ramblers continue to perform to this day, surviving the passing of founding members Darbone and Duhon in 2008 and 2006, respectively.

"Dans Le Grand Bois" is a Cajun song that borrows the melody of "La Jolie Blonde," a song first recorded by Les Breaux Freres as "Ma Blonde Est Partie." The personnel of the Hackberry Ramblers on this recording is Luderin Darbone on fiddle, Floyd and Danny Shreve on guitars, and Pete Duhon on string bass and vocal. Whether Pete Duhon was a relative of Edwin Duhon or another name Edwin Duhon went by is not clear as of this writing. It is known that Edwin Duhon played guitar, bass, piano, and harmonica in addition to the accordion, so it is possible that Pete and Edwin Duhon are one and the same.

Moi, j'connais,
Ma 'tite fille.
T'es la bas dans l'grand bois tout seule.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Avec ma fille.

Moi, j'connais,
Ma 'tite fille.
T'es la bas dans l'grand bois tout seule.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Moi, j'm'en vas dans l'grand bois.
Avec ma fille.


Many thanks to Neal Pomea for providing this transcription.

Unlike many of the Cajun selections on the original Anthology, which are primitive in the extreme, "Dans Le Grand Bois" reflects the influence of non-Cajun music, particularly country and western swing.

Pete/Edwin Duhon's lead vocal includes the distinctive vocal yelp towards the end of each line, so often associated with Cajun music.

According to Henry Wright, a fellow old time music enthusiast who also happens to be fluent in French (although admittedly not Cajun French),

The...lyrics seem to evoke a visit or a date in the woods. The parts I can make out, other than the title, which he repeats many times, are "la-bas" (over there), "ma petite fille" (my little girl) and "touts seuls" (all alone). To me this suggest the singer is telling us about a date or rendez-vous with a woman in a secluded spot, perhaps in or near the bayou, taking into account that it is a Cajun song.

Not having studied the language since high school, my French is extremely rusty. However, I do remember enough to recognize j'connais, which, as I recall, means I know; connais being the first person singular form of connaƮtre, meaning to know or to be familiar with. The expression to know in English can have a sexual connotation (albeit in a fairly archaic manner). It seems to me, then, that if j'connais has a similar sexual connotation in French, that Dans Le Grand Bois is nothing less than a song about having sexual relations in the woods.

If "Dans Le Grand Bois" had appeared on the original Anthology, it would have appeared on the "Songs" volume. It would certainly not be the first or only salacious song included in Smith's collection.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's some film footage of the Hackberry Ramblers performing and talking about their history in the 1991 documentary, Marc and Ann, a film about Marc and Ann Savoy.



Download and listen to Hackberry Ramblers - "Dans Le Grand Bois (In The Forest)"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Barbecue Bust" - Mississippi Jook Band


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Twelve: "Barbecue Bust" performed by Mississippi Jook Band. Recorded in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 20, 1936.

The Mississippi Jook Band was a one-off studio band consisting of Roosevelt Graves (guitar and kazoo), Uaroy Graves (tambourine) and Cooney Vaughn (piano). They recorded a handful of sides during this July, 1936 session, including this recording of "Barbecue Bust," recorded only thirteen days after "I'll Be Rested When The Roll Is Called" heard earlier on this disc.

For biographical information on Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves, see the entry for "I'll Be Rested When The Roll Is Called."

No biographical information is available on Cooney Vaughn. In his notes, Dick Spottswood quotes blues historian Gayle Dean Wardlow, who notes that Vaughn is "remembered as a pop performer, not a blues entertainer."

The group's name is a reference to "jook joints" or "juke joints," informal establishments where ordinary people (usually African Americans in the Deep South) congregated to drink, dance, gamble, and otherwise socialize. The term "juke" is believed to derive from the Gullah word "joog," which means "rowdy" or "disorderly." Such establishments first appeared on plantations in the Antebellum South as a place where slaves could socialize and unwind after a long week of work. The practice carried over into the post-Civil War era, often appearing in labor camps, and continued into Prohibition. It has been argued that juke joints represented the first "private space" accorded to blacks in the United States.

Juke joints demanded music, of course. Solo musicians and small groups would provide music for all night dancing (musicians such as Son House and Charlie Patton were veterans of the juke joints). When mechanization and recorded music proved a cheaper way to provide music, the juke joints lent their name to the automatic record playing machines installed in bars and other such establishments, which came to be known as "juke boxes."

"Barbecue Bust" is an almost entirely instrumental piece and is one of the only instrumental performances on the fourth volume of the Anthology. Had it appeared on the original three-volume Anthology, "Barbecue Bust" would have undoubtedly been featured on the first disc of the "Social Music" volume, along with other examples of dance music.

"Barbecue Bust" is an uptempo number, with strong ties to jazz and boogie woogie. The music is occasionally punctuated with cries and exhortations (at a couple of points, Cooney Vaughn is called upon by name). During the last verse, Roosevelt Graves engages in some scat singing. By 1936, scat singing could hardly be called "new," but it serves to solidly place this recording during the jazz age. In addition, Roosevelt Graves plays the kazoo during the first few verses, clearly emulating a jazz cornet. Cooney Vaughn's barrel-house piano ploughs a path through the song, despite being under-miked. Uaroy Graves, while not as prominent in this recording as he had been in "I'll Be Rested When The Roll Is Called", nevertheless lays down a driving rhythm that keeps this recording rolling straight through to the final bar.

"Barbecue Bust" gives us a glimpse of something close to the contemporary black music of the rural south during the late '30s. It is raucous and strident and anything but polite. It is also thoroughly of its time, which further serves to distinguish this volume from the rest of the Anthology.

"Barbecue Bust," like the previous entry, was recorded in Mississippi.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Speaking of boogie woogie piano, here's one of the grand masters, Meade Lux Lewis, in a "soundie" likely made during the 1940s...



Download and listen to Mississippi Jook Band - "Barbecue Bust"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Cockeyed World" - Minnie Wallace


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Eleven: "The Cockeyed World" performed by Minnie Wallace. Recorded in Jackson, Mississippi on October 12, 1935.

No biographical information on Minnie Wallace was available as of this writing. If anyone has any information to share, please leave a comment or e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com.

Minnie Wallace was a known associate of the Memphis Jug Band, so it may be presumed that she lived and worked in Memphis, Tennessee for at least part of her career.

"The Cockeyed World" is a blues that makes reference to the Italian invasion of the Ethiopian Empire on October 3, 1935, just nine days before this recording was made.

Italian Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini wanted to establish an Italian Empire to rival that of the Romans. He also sought to avenge the defeat the Italians suffered at the Battle of Adowa, which had ended the first Italo-Abyssinian War in 1896. In 1935, Ethiopia was one of only two independent nations in Africa. Subduing Ethiopia would strengthen Italy's imperialist presence on the continent.

The Italian invasion was brutal. The Ethiopian army, while larger than the invading Italian force, was armed with antique rifles (capable of firing only one shot), swords, knives, and spears. Many Ethiopian soldiers fought barefoot. The Italian forces consisted of approximately 595 planes and 795 tanks. The Ethiopian army, by contrast, had approximately three planes and as many tanks. Most controversially, on December 26, 1935, the Italian generals in charge of the invasion received permission to use mustard gas and other chemical warfare agents. The war was one-sided and extremely short. By the time Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I had fled to British Palestine on May 4, 1936, approximately 275,000 Ethiopians were dead and more than 500,000 wounded.

On June 30th, Selassie addressed the League of Nations, asking for them to condemn the Italian invasion and support a resistance movement. He concluded by warning, "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow." The speech was a memorable one, and was viewed around the world via newsreel. But it failed to motivate the League of Nations to action. The League recognized Italy's sovereignty over Ethiopia, as did Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Great Britain and France. Only the United States, the Soviet Union, the Republic of China, Mexico, and New Zealand refused to recognize the legitimacy of Italy's invasion.

Italy occupied Ethiopia until 1941, when British forces retook Addis Ababa. Ethiopia was formally recognized as an independent nation in 1947 with the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Italy, and Emperor Selassie was restored as its ruler.

In the Americas, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia had a profound affect on people of African descent. As mentioned above, Ethiopia was one of only two independent nations in Africa. The invasion inspired strong feelings among black Americans as well as West Indians. Many black Americans volunteered to fight for Ethiopia, although few made it over there. In addition, it was during this period that the Rastafarian movement was born in Jamaica.

I woke up this morning feeling mighty bad.
I woke up this morning feeling mighty bad.
'Twas the worst old feeling that I ever had.

It's war on Ethiopia and mama's feeling blue.
It's war on Ethiopia, mama's feeling blue.
I tell the cockeyed world, I don't know what to do.

They say that Ethiopia is a long ways from here.
They say that Ethiopia's a long ways from here.
They're trying to steal my man and carry him over there.

I love my man, tell the cockeyed world I do.
I love my man, tell the cockeyed world I do.
It's coming up tight but he sure loves me too.

This old cockeyed world will make a good man treat you mean.
This old [cock]eyed world will make a good man treat you mean.
He will treat you just like a poor girl he's never seen.

It's war on Ethiopia and the man overhead.
It's war on Ethiopia and the man overhead.
I tell the cockeyed world the things my baby said.

It's war on Ethiopia. Baby, please, please behave.
It's war on Ethiopia. Please, please behave.
I'll tell the cockeyed world, I'll follow you to your grave.

That's right.


"The Cockeyed World" is likely the most topical song on this already fairly topical volume of the Anthology, commenting as it does on world events that were transpiring even as the music was being committed to wax. It also points ahead to an event that was to come: The Second World War, an event that, along with the Great Depression, would effectively end the world of the Anthology. The United States would emerge from the crucible of war and economic turmoil an entirely different nation; a nation that would dominate the world as one of only two Super Powers; a nation that possessed the power to destroy all life on earth; a nation that would wield unprecedented political and economic influence over the globe, an influence that only today is beginning to recede.

The recording itself is ebullient, in stark contrast with the heavy lyrical content. Minnie Wallace's vocal is strong and rough, and is definitely of a piece with that of Memphis Minnie. Joining Wallace on this recording are Will Shade on harmonica, Ernest Lawlers on guitar, Robert "Tim" Wilkins on second guitar, Kid Stormy Weather on piano and "Spoons" on the spoons.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a short video that describes the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the galvanizing affect it had on American and West Indian blacks.



Download and listen to Minnie Wallace - "The Cockeyed World"

Monday, November 15, 2010

"He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" - Memphis Minnie


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Ten: "He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" performed by Memphis Minnie. Recorded in Chicago on August 22, 1935.

Memphis Minnie was born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers, Louisiana on June 3, 1897. She was the oldest of thirteen children born to Abe and Gertrude Douglas, both of whom earned a living as sharecroppers. In 1904, Douglas's family relocated to Walls, Mississippi. Around the same time, she received her first guitar as a gift and she began playing around the neighborhood. She would also sneak into nearby Memphis, Tennessee where she would play on the street and in public parks.

Around 1910, Douglas joined the Ringling Brothers Circus as a musician. She traveled all over the south with the circus before moving to the Bedford Plantation in Mississippi where she played with Willie Brown, a colleague and occasional performing partner of Charlie Patton's. During this period, Douglas began to establish a reputation as a first class blues performer, one of the few female blues musicians considered to be equal to (or even better than) the best male performers.

Before too long, however, Douglas returned to Memphis and began performing in the notorious Beale Street district. She had already proven herself a masterful blues musician, but living and working on Beale Street proved her toughness. She developed a reputation for hard drinking and gambling, and supplemented her income by working as a prostitute (charging the relatively exorbitant fee of $12 for her services, reportedly). Douglas also performed with the Memphis Jug Band during this period.

In 1929, Douglas made her first recordings for Columbia Records. Her first recording, "Bumble Bee" became a hit. It was on her first records that she was first credited as "Memphis Minnie," a name she continued to use for the rest of her career. She later recorded for other labels, including Decca and Bluebird, under the supervision of Lester Melrose. Among her other major contributions to the blues cannon, Minnie wrote "When The Levee Breaks" which was later recorded by Led Zeppelin.

Minnie was among the first generation of blues musicians to embrace the electric guitar, forming one of the first "classic" electric blues bands (consisting of electric guitar, bass, and drums). The sound Minnie helped pioneer lead the way for the Chicago blues musicians of the later '40s, including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Rogers.

By the end of the 1950s, however, Minnie's music was considered unfashionable. Despite her use of electric instruments in performance, the more conservative record companies insisted that she record in her earlier style. She returned to Memphis in 1957. During this period, her health began to fail and she retired from performing. She spent the remainder of her life in a nursing home where she died from a stroke in 1973. She was buried in the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls. Mississippi. A headstone was erected for her in 1996, largely paid for by guitarist Bonnie Raitt.

"He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" is an ode to the boxer Joe Louis (born Joseph Louis Barrow, 1914-1981). Joe Louis is widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Louis held the heavyweight title from 1937 to 1949, a total of 140 consecutive months. Recorded in 1935, "He's In The Ring" stems from relatively early in Louis's career, two years before he would win the heavyweight championship. Louis was a hero to African-Americans in the 1930s and 40s. While Louis defended his title numerous times during his long reign (more than any other champion since the bare-knuckle era), no fight of Louis's was as emblematic as his two bouts against the German fighter Max Schmeling. Louis and Schmeling fought on June 19, 1936 and again on June 22, 1938. Schmeling was held up as proof of Aryan superiority by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. When Louis's first fight against Schmeling ended with Louis knocked out in the twelfth round. This was Louis only defeat by knockout during his prime. Poet Langston Hughes described the mood in Harlem following Louis's defeat:

I walked down Seventh Avenue and saw grown men weeping like children, and women sitting in the curbs with their head in their hands. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried.


Louis met Schmeling a second time in 1938, after Louis had won the heavyweight championship. This time, Louis defeated Schmeling by a knockout in the first round. It was a major triumph for American blacks as well as a major setback for the Nazi image (the second such setback since Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games). Louis's victory helped to gradually defeat the myth of black inferiority.


Hey, you people going out tonight.
Let's go to see Joe Louis fight.
And if you ain't got no money,
Buddy (?), go tomorrow night.
'Cause he's in the ring doing the same old thing.

Well, he even carries a mean left.
You know he do!
And he carries a mean right.
And if he hit you with either one,
Sends the charge from a dynamite.
He's in the ring, boys, doing the same old thing.

I'm a-tell all of you prize fighters
Don't play Joe for no fool.
After he hits you with that left duke,
Same as a kick from a Texas mule.
He's in the ring, boys, doing the same old thing.

Joe Louis is a two-fist fighter.
And he stands six feet tall.
And the bigger they come,
He says, the harder they fall.
He's in the ring, oh! Doing the same old thing.

I'd chance my money with 'im!

For if I only had ten hundred dollars
And I laid up on my shelf.
I bet everybody passed my house
In one round Joe would knock 'em out.
He's in the ring, mmmmmmmmmmm! Doing the same old thing.

I wouldn't even pay my house rent.
I wouldn't buy me nothing to eat.
Joe Louis says, "Take a chance with me,
I'm gonna put (unintelligible) on your feet."
In the ring. He's still fightin'! Doing the same old thing!


"He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" is a blues masterpiece. Ably accompanied by Black Bob on piano and Bill Settles on bass, Memphis Minnie turns in a performance as powerful as one of Joe Louis's punches. Her voice is powerful, yet sensual, caressing the lyrics and lagging behind the beat. She makes frequent use of asides and exclamations, which add to the spontaneous feel of the recording. It is a highlight of the fourth volume in particular and of the Anthology as a whole.

This is also a performance that could not have appeared on the original three-volume Anthology. Like many of the ballads on volume one, "He's In The Ring" immortalizes a heroic figure in song. But unlike such figures as John Henry, Cole Younger, or Stackalee, Joe Louis is a figure set firmly in the present tense. All of the legendary figures on the original Anthology were dead and gone, but Joe Louis was somebody that a listener to this record could go see that very night. Blacks, as well as boxing fans of all colors, thrilled to Louis's exploits through newspaper reports and newsreels. Not only was Louis not dead, but his greatest deeds were yet to come.

Memphis Minnie was also far too contemporary a performer for the original Anthology. Her style was not only rooted in the classic country blues of the '20s, but it pointed towards the urban blues of the coming decade and rock and roll beyond.

"He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" is the first of two songs in a row that comment on current events that have nothing to do with the Depression and the first of two songs by a singer named "Minnie."

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Unable to find a recent video of "He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)" (always a risk with topical songs), we present a performance of a different Memphis Minnie tune. This is "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" performed by the East River String Band.



Download and listen to Memphis Minnie - "He's In The Ring (Doing The Same Old Thing)"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" - Roosevelt Graves and Brother



Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Nine: "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" performed by Roosevelt Graves and Brother. Recorded in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 7, 1936.

Roosevelt Graves was born in Meridian, Mississippi on December 9, 1909. Other than the fact that he was blind, nothing is known of his life before he began recording. Graves played guitar and usually performed with his brother, Uaroy, who played tambourine and is widely considered to be one of the greatest tambourine players of all time. If little is known of Roosevelt Graves, absolutely nothing is known of his brother. There is no recorded birth or death date for Uaroy Graves. Until recently, even Uaroy's name was in dispute. He has often been miscredited as either "Aaron" or "Leroy" (in fact, he is credited as "Aaron" in Dick Spottswood's notes) on the assumption that "Uaroy" must have been a transcription error or a typo. In 2004, some Paramount Records documents were scanned and posted on the internet (sadly, I cannot find an active link) which clearly showed that Graves' brother was, indeed, named "Uaroy." Uaroy was partially sighted and served as a guide for his blind brother.

The Graves brothers made their first recordings for Paramount Records in 1929. A second session was recorded in July of 1936 through the agency of H.C. Speir. Some histories have this session taking place in a train station, although Speir reported to blues researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow that the session, in fact, took place in the Hotel Hattiesburg. Although only Graves and his brother appear on this recording, several other recordings were made during this session under the name The Mississippi Jook Band which included pianist Cooney Vaughn.

The Graves brothers did not record again. Roosevelt Graves died in Summerland, Mississippi on December 30, 1962. Uaroy's death date is unknown.

"I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" is a spiritual that celebrates the life to come. It is the second of two religious songs in a row.

I'll be rested when the roll is called.
I'll be rested when the roll is called.
I'll be rested in the Kingdom of Heaven,
I'll be rested when the roll is called.

No more shoutin' when the roll is called.
No more shoutin' when the roll is called.
I'll be rested in the Kingdom of Heaven,
I'll be rested when the roll is called.

No more sorrows when the roll is called.
No more sorrows when the roll is called.
I'll be rested in the Kingdom of Heaven,
I'll be rested when the roll is called.

Meet my mother when the roll is called.
Meet my mother when the roll is called.
I'll be rested in the Kingdom of Heaven,
I'll be rested when the roll is called.

I'll be rested when the roll is called.
I'll be rested when the roll is called.
I'll be rested in the Kingdom of Heaven,
I'll be rested when the roll is called.

Meet my elders when the roll is called.
Meet my elders when the roll is called.
Meet my elders in the Kingdom of Heaven,
Meet my elders when the roll is called.


A simple, repetitive song, "I'll Be Rested" is as spirited and uplifting as "No Depression In Heaven" is downbeat. Graves and his brother perform the song with vigor, particularly Uaroy, whose tambourine sets an irresistible rhythm. Both brothers sing, with Uaroy's bass vocal employing a technique that sounds similar to the Kargyraa style of Tuvan throat singing. The brothers alternate unison and harmony vocals, with Uaroy occasionally interjecting asides such as "My lord" or "yes sir."

Some observers have noted how the heavily rhythmic nature of this recording seems to point forward towards rock and roll, with some hyperbolicly declaring "I'll Be Rested" to be the first rock and roll record. While it may not really be the first rock and roll record, it certainly does seem to point forward stylistically, which is in keeping with the tone of this set.

It is impossible for words to do justice to the simple brilliance of this recording. You have to hear it to believe it.

"I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" is probably the most popular recording by Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves. It has been anthologized numerous times and can be heard on Dust-to-Digital's excellent Goodbye Babylon set. The song also appears on Revanant Records collection American Primitive, Vol I. The song has also been covered several times by such artists as Mavis Staples and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a bluegrass version of "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)" performed by bluegrassgod. Not sure if that's the name of the group or if one member posts in YouTube under that name.



Here's a lovely solo guitar version performed by jessewva.



Download and listen to Roosevelt Graves and Brother - "I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"No Depression In Heaven" - The Carter Family


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Eight: "No Depression In Heaven" performed by The Carter Family. Recorded in New York on June 9, 1936. Original issue Decca 5242.

For biographical information on the Carter Family, see the entry for "John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man."

"No Depression In Heaven" was written by gospel songwriter and publisher James D. Vaughan, who was born in Giles County, Tennessee on December 14, 1864. This is one of those coincidences/connections that would have delighted Smith, since Giles County is the place that Jim Jackson intends to "go back" to in "Old Dog Blue."

In addition to his contributions as a songwriter, Vaughan also founded WOAN, one of the first radio stations in Tennessee. He also started Vaughan Phonographic Records, the first record company based in the South. He was a great influence on A.P. Carter, who recorded several of Vaughan's compositions. James D. Vaughan died on February 9, 1941. He would be inducted into the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame in 1997.

"No Depression In Heaven" has been covered numerous times by artists ranging from the New Lost City Ramblers to Sheryl Crow. The song was perhaps most famously recorded as the title track to alternative country pioneers Uncle Tupelo's debut album, No Depression. It became so identified by the alternative country music that it inspired the title of No Depression,
the most prominent alt country magazine. The alternative country music is sometimes called the "No Depression" movement.


For fear the hearts of men are failing,
For these are latter days we know.
The Great Depression now is spreading,
God's word declared it would be so.

I'm going where there's no Depression,
To the lovely land that's free from care.
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble,
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there.

In that bright land, there'll be no hunger.
No orphan children cryin' for bread.
No weeping widows, toil or struggle.
No shrouds, no coffins, and no death.

I'm going where there's no Depression,
To the lovely land that's free from care.
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble,
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there.

This dark hour of midnight nearing,
Tribulation time will come.
The storms will hurl in midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom.

I'm going where there's no Depression,
To the lovely land that's free from care.
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble,
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there.


Despite the speculation in Spottswood's notes that this song should have traded places with "Milk Cow Blues" in order to be part of the sequence of topical songs that began with "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?", "No Depression In Heaven" isn't really a "topical song." The song does make reference to then-current events, but unlike "How Can A Poor Man..." or either of Uncle Dave Macon's songs on this volume, "No Depression In Heaven" isn't so much about the events of the 1930s as it is about transcending those events. "No Depression In Heaven" is a song about how ultimately unimportant the circumstances of this world are, when compared with the life to come.

Had it appeared on the original Anthology, there is no doubt that "No Depression In Heaven" would have appeared on the religious disc of the "Social Music" volume. This is a song that promises eternal salvation and liberation from the travails of the material world. The Great Depression is simply the latest of a growing litany of miseries that will be eventually relieved in death.

Vaughan's lyric also makes reference of the end of the world. The speaker in the song refers to 1930s as the "latter days" and speaks, in the last verse, of the "tribulation time" that will come. This refers to the events foretold in the revelation of St. John the Divine. Of course, the world did not end in Vaughan's lifetime, nor in the lifetime of any members of the original Carter Family. People have been predicting the end of the world, based on the prophesies of the New Testament, since the words of St. John were written down (indeed, these events were supposedly going to happen within the lifetime of the Apostles). Despite their perfect record of being wrong, Christians continue to predict that we are living in the last days. Most recently, this type of thinking has made the fortune of author and huckster Tim LaHaye, whose bestselling Left Behind books purport to give an "authentic" and "scholarly" glimpse of the tribulation to come, all dressed up in paranoia and superstition. Get ready for the rapture, but be sure to give Mr. LaHaye your money in the meanwhile.

The Carter Family's reading of this allegedly uplifting song is fascinating. Featuring dual guitars played by Sara and Maybelle Carter, along with the supporting vocal of A.P. Carter (who hasn't been heard on the Anthology in some time), "No Depression In Heaven" has become one of the definitive Carter Family records. The odd thing is that for all comfort Sara is supposedly bringing through the lyric, Sara herself doesn't sound very happy about the whole thing. Her somber, deadpan reading cuts against the triumphant tone of the lyric. Perhaps there is no Depression in Heaven, but Sara doesn't make heaven sound very inviting.

"No Depression In Heaven" is the last of four songs in a row by artists who appeared on the original Anthology. It is also the last song on the Anthology by the Carter Family, who contribute a whopping seven tracks to the set. Not only are there more songs by the Carter Family than any other artist, but the Carters are the only artist to appear on all four volumes. As was mentioned in the entry for "John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man," it is only fitting that Smith gave over so much space to the Carter Family, as it can easily be argued that they are among the most important musicians in American history.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Uncle Tupelo (the band that would later give the world Wilco and Son Volt) performing "No Depression In Heaven" during a 1992 appearance in Chicago.



This a version of "No Depression" performed by Sheryl Crow. The video makes explicit tribute to the Carter Family, and to American Folk Music in general.



Here's a version performed by Jeff Crane, Terry Dignon & Anthony Tino live at the Rosendale Cafe, April 28, 2009.



Download and listen to The Carter Family - "No Depression In Heaven"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Milk Cow Blues" - John Estes


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Seven: "Milk Cow Blues" performed by John Estes. Recorded in Memphis on May 13, 1930. Original issue Victor 59918-2.

For biographical information on "Sleepy" John Estes and Yank Rachel, see the entry for "Expressman Blues."

John Estes and Yank Rachel return with this ribald song of adultery, drunkenness and disease.

Now, asks sweet mama,
Lemme be her kid.
She says, "I might get boogied
Like to keep it hid."

Well, she looked at me,
She begin to smile.
Says, "I thought I would use you
For my man a while."

"That you just don't let my husband
Catch you there.
Now, just - just don't let my
Husband catch you there."

Now, went upstairs
To pack my leavin' trunk.
I never saw no whiskey.
The blues done made me sloppy drunk.

Say, I never saw no whiskey.
Blues done made me sloppy drunk.
Now, I never saw no whiskey,
But the blues done made me sloppy drunk.

Now some said, disease
Some said it was [unintelligible]
But it's the slow consumption
Killin' you by degrees.

Lord, it's the slow consumption
Killin' you by degrees.
Now, it's a slow consumption
And it's killin' you by degrees.


"Milk Cow Blues" was recorded four days before the version of "Expressman Blues" that appears on volume three of the Anthology and features the same instrumental line-up (Estes on guitar, Rachel on mandolin and vocal, and Jab Jones on piano). The song has nothing whatever to do with its title, instead it concerns a man having an affair with a married woman (becoming her "kid" or "kid man"). The speaker declares that, not having imbibed any whiskey, it is "the blues" that have made him "sloppy drunk" (a dubious claim, to say the least). In the last verse, the speaker addresses someone whose identity is unclear (it could be the woman from the first verse, although in that verse the woman is addressed as "she." In this verse, the speaker addresses a "you"). The speaker declares that a "slow consumption" is killing the addressee "by degrees." Consumption, of course, was another name for tuberculosis, an infectious disease that often affects the lungs, although it can affect other body parts including the spine. Notable victims of tuberculosis include Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Vivian Leigh, Charles Bukowski, Dashiell Hammett, Maxim Gorkey, Albert Camus, and - of course - Jimmie Rodgers.

This song is unrelated to the Kokomo Arnold song by the same title. It was the Arnold song that Elvis Presley famously covered during his Sun Sessions.

"Milk Cow Blues" has been covered by Taj Mahal as well as the Derek Trucks Band.

This is the third track in a row of four that feature artists who appeared on the original three-volume Anthology.


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This is a clip of the Kinks performing a song called "Milk Cow Blues" that has nothing to do with Estes and Rachel's song OR the Kokomo Arnold song. Nevertheless, it rocks and its worth seeing. This performance features Dave Davies on lead vocal.



Download and listen to John Estes - "Milk Cow Blues"

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Governor Al Smith" - Uncle Dave Macon


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc Two; Track Six: "Governor Al Smith" performed by Uncle Dave Macon. Recorded in Chicago on July 26, 1928.

For biographical information on Uncle Dave Macon, see the entry on "Way Down The Old Plank Road."

Alfred Emmanuel Smith (December 30, 1873-October 4, 1944) was the four-time Governor of the State of New York who ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States in 1928. His opponent was Herbert Hoover, who had served as Secretary of Commerce in the Calvin Coolidge administration. In 1928, the United States was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom, for which the administrations of Coolidge and Harding had taken credit. This unprecedented boom was to end with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which would lead to an equally unprecedented economic crisis. The nation's prosperity in 1928, coupled with anti-Catholic sentiments aimed at Smith, ensured that Hoover would defeat Smith in the general election. One of the planks in Smith's platform was the repeal of prohibition. Smith was succeeded as Governor of New York by future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"Governor Al Smith" is a direct endorsement of Smith by Uncle Dave Macon, a remarkable thing considering that Smith was both a northerner and a Catholic.

Gettin' right now.

Al Smith nominated for president, darlin'.
Al Smith nominated for president, darlin'.
Al Smith nominated for president,
My vote to him I'm a-gonna present, darlin'.

Al Smith is a mighty fine man, darlin'.
Al Smith is a mighty fine man, darlin'.
Al Smith is a mighty fine man,
He wants to be president of our land, darlin'.

Hot dog! In Chicago, just from Tennessee, and here's what the people say:

Al Smith is a-gettin' on a boom, darlin'.
Al Smith is a-gettin' on a boom, darlin'.
Al Smith is a-gettin' on a boom, darlin.'
Al Smith is a-gettin' on a boom.
He don't favor the open saloon, darlin'.

Smith wants everything to be just right, darlin'.
Smith wants everything to be just right, darlin'.
Smith wants everything to be just right.
The law's gonna get you if you get tight, darlin'.

I'm gonna buy my little camphor gum, darlin'.
I'm gonna buy my little camphor gum, darlin'.
I'm gonna buy my little camphor gum,
For then I think I can buy a little rum, darlin'.

Moonshine's been here long enough, darlin'.
Moonshine's been here long enough, darlin'.
Moonshine's been here long enough,
Let's all vote right and get a-rid of this stuff, darlin'.

Many a good man's been poisoned to death, darlin'.
Many a good man's been poisoned to death, darlin.'
Many a good man's been poisoned to death,
And a-with real drink was never blessed, darlin'.

There's a-four dollar bills and a bottle of beer, darlin'.
Four dollar bills and a bottle of beer, darlin'.
Four dollar bills and a bottle of beer,
Wish to the lord my honey was here, darlin'.


Macon's performance of "Governor Al Smith," which likely recycles the melody of an old folk tune, is more subdued than the other tracks of his that have appeared on the Anthology. Even his characteristic opening remark seems relatively understated. As for Macon's endorsement of Smith, he seems primarily interested in Smith's desire to overturn prohibition. Six of the eight verses deal with alcohol. It is clear that, more than anything else, Macon wants a drink.

Is it too much to suppose that Harry Smith chose to include this track, in part, because it concerns a namesake of his?

"Governor Al Smith," which once again features the guitar of Sam McGee, is the type of song that Harry Smith would never have used on the original three-volume Anthology. While many of the songs on the original three volumes could be described as "topical," none of them describe a current event. Although things like the sinking of the Titanic or the assassination of William McKinley were relatively recent history to the artists on the Anthology - many of these events happening within the artist's lifetime - the two Uncle Dave Macon tracks presented on "Volume Four" represent something completely different. The previous selection, "The Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train," commented on a current event. But "Governor Al Smith" goes that track one further: It actually attempts to influence the outcome of a future event. That it was unsuccessful is unimportant. What is important is that the difference of these tracks further underlines the distinction of "Volume Four" from the first three volumes of the set. Once again, the music of "Volume Four" concerns itself with the present and future rather than the past.

Macon would refer to Al Smith's defeat in a later song titled "Nashville."

"Governor Al Smith" is the third of three topical songs in a row and the second of two songs by Uncle Dave Macon (as on the third volume, Uncle Dave's songs are sequenced back to back). It is also the second of four songs in a row that feature artists from the original three-volume Anthology.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's some footage of Al Smith commenting on the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933.



Download and listen to Uncle Dave Macon - "Governor Al Smith"