New Arrivals, Restocks, & Rev. Charlie Jackson - early 2016

The Voices of Harmony were a long-running group from Baton Rouge who were contemporaries with & played on many programs with Rev. Charlie Jackson. They had at least two 45s on the Herald Recording Studio label. ("A Little Misusing" is especially beautiful) This live recording from Rev. Jackson's archive shows a different side of their repertoire: they stretch out for nearly 12 minutes & really have church. No restoration has been done on this hot recording, which was probably made with a boombox. It comes from an unlabelled tape, likely circa the mid-1990s, the same service that had Laura Davis Jackson’s performance of "I’ve Got a Mind to Live for Jesus" heard on Rev. Jackson’s Lord You’re So Good: Live Recordings, Vol. 2. The accompanying image is from a video of the VOH at another service from approximately the same time period. Many thanks to Dr. K. Llewellyn McGhee, son of Troy McGhee of the Voices of Harmony, for granting permission to post this!

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
RL Burnside
First Recordings
Fat Possum
LP
$14

14 songs from RL Burnside’s first recording session, captured by George Mitchell in 1968. By turns, it’s spellbinding, deep, & raucously fun acoustic blues. Limited edition, 180-gram vinyl pressing. A classic, restocked after a long absence from these parts. Hear Goin' Down South & Poor Black Mattie.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
John Carter
Echoes from Rudolph's
NoBusiness Records
2CD
$16

"Echoes from Rudolph's has topped my list of Albums Most in Need of Reissuing for the longest time. Not only is it one of clarinetist-composer John Carter's greatest performances on record, it is also the only documentation of a critical period in the evolution of his art. It is the only album he made as a leader or co-leader between Secrets in 1972 and Variations in 1979. And it comes from the period in which he decided to discard his other horns and to focus exclusively on the clarinet.

"Every Sunday afternoon for two and a half years, between 1973 and 1976, the John Carter Trio made Rudolph's Fine Art Center their home. A former dentist's office located at 3320 West 50th Street in South Central Los Angeles, Rudolph's had a raised stage at one end of the room. To the right was the green room, to the left was a door to individual rooms and a bath. In between was a little table for wine and cheese. Capacity was about 30, but there were usually fewer people than that in attendance. In this intimate setting, accompanied by his son Stanley on bass and longtime collaborator William Jeffrey on drums, Carter developed his art and grew to realize that the clarinet was his instrument of destiny.

"As 'Amin' shows, Carter was an original voice on soprano sax. In fact there was another tune for soprano saxophone recorded for the album, 'Blues for Ruby Pearl,' but it was never released. At the last minute, Carter replaced it with 'Angles,' a solo clarinet piece. As good as he was on soprano, it was on clarinet that Carter truly takes wing and soars. The new solo track signaled his transition exclusively to the instrument.

"Carter released Echoes from Rudolph's in late October or early November 1977 in an edition of only 550 copies on his own Ibedon label. 'I be done' is a Black southern idiom common during John's Texas childhood. Cornetist Bobby Bradford gives an example of its usage: 'I be done go upside yo' haid.' For Carter, the name not only connects to his Fort Worth roots, it also sounds suggestive of Africa.

"The second disc of this set contains a rare broadcast recording by the trio. After Rudolph's closed, the group was invited to perform on the Goodbye Porkpie Hat program on KPFK. Recorded in March 1977, just months before Carter added the solo clarinet track to the LP, it is very likely the last recording of Carter on soprano sax.

"With most of his earliest recorded work with Bobby Bradford now back in print, Carter's revolutionary achievements as an instrumentalist and composer can be reassessed and better appreciated. These trio sessions capture Carter at the very birth of his mature period, when clarinet became his sole instrument. In a sense, Echoes from Rudolph's is the missing link between the New Art Jazz Ensemble of the late '60s/early '70s and his compositional masterpiece, Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music, released on five albums throughout the 198os and one of the great triumphs of that decade" - Ed Hazell

Hear clips of To a Fallen Poppy and Amin

John Carter: clarinet, soprano saxophone
Stanley Carter: bass
William Jeffrey: drums, percussion
Chris Carter: cymbal (CD 1, track 2)
Melba Joyce: vocals (CD 1, track 2)

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Ted Daniel's Energy Module
Innerconnection
NoBusiness Records
2CD
$16

Trumpeter Ted Daniel's Energy Module was an unfortunately short-lived outfit, performing only 2 gigs in their time together. This hot live recording was their last, recorded November 8, 1975, at Sunrise Studio in New York City. They burned through an array of tunes by Albert Ayler, Dewey Redman, Sunny Murray, and Ornette Coleman, plus a couple originals by Daniel, who also contributes some brief, evocative notes for the record. Edition of 400, gatefold sleeve. Hear some of Jiblet and The Probe. Also available as a limited edition 2LP.

Ted Daniel: trumpet, flugelhorn, French hunting horn, Moroccan bugle
Daniel Carter: tenor saxophone
Oliver Lake: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, piccolo, cow bell
Richard Pierce: bass
Tatsuya Nakamura: drums
Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
The Freestyle Band (Henry Warner, Earl Freeman, Philip Spigner)
s/t
NoBusiness Records
CD
$10

Restocked, with a nice price on this Lithuanian import due to peripheral 50 Miles involvement. Right on time reissue of this great underground free jazz classic, complete with two previously unissued tracks totaling over 20 minutes (!) and in-depth liner notes by Ed Hazell. 50 Miles used to offer the original vinyl pressing, and that write-up is below:

"I watch the things all around me and I shy away, reject and go away, and sometimes it's more successful." - Earl Freeman, quoted in "Freeman Fighter," written by Valerie Wilmer, published in Melody Maker, May 13, 1972.

earl freeman Earl "Goggles" Freeman (1931-1994) was an outcat's outcat: musician, poet, visual artist, and all-around interesting fellow. Born in Oakland, Freeman was a noteworthy but somewhat enigmatic musician who was most active recording-wise when he was an expat on the '60s Paris free jazz scene. His discography includes dates by Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Kenneth Terroade, Noah Howard, Selwyn Lissack, Mike Osborne, and even Gong's first record. A Korean War veteran, he often wore an aviator's cap and goggles, hence his nickname. (He is also rumored to have worn a parachute onstage on at least one occasion.) In 1972, French state investigators hauled Freeman in for questioning and subsequently declared that he possessed a "Dangerous Political Image." Under threat of imprisonment, he hightailed it to Amsterdam. He hung there for a while until some folks smashed his bass, signaling that it might be time for another move.

Freeman was living in New York City by the mid-'70s, where he would occasionally perform with The Music Ensemble. He also directed the Universal Jazz Symphonette, as heard on the elusive Soundcraft '75 album. While its fidelity leaves quite a bit to be desired, the LP is highly sought after because it features some of the earliest recorded work from William Parker, Daniel Carter, Raphe Malik, Billy Bang, and many other young players on the scene during that period, including Henry P. Warner and Philip Spigner, a.k.a. Adeyeme (incorrectly credited as Abe Yeme on the LP sleeve), who would later collaborate with Freeman in The Freestyle Band.

henry warnerHenry P. Warner was born in New York City in 1940. Notable early entries in his discography include William Parker's Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace and New York Collage by Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble. He was also the music director for Bang's Outline No. 12 LP, and has performed with Sun Ra, Wilbur Ware, Earl Cross, Frank Lowe, Clarence "C" Sharpe, and many others. He subsequently went on to lead his own bands, perform with groups such as the Vibrational Therapists, and take part in jam sessions in a multitude of scenes in and around New York City. He believed in the importance of the role of the musician within the community, and was a teacher of long-standing at Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center in the Bronx. William Parker's book Conversations features an extensive interview with Mr. Warner. Sadly he passed on April 9, 2014.

philip spignerBorn in Manhattan in 1951, Philip B. Spigner has led a multifaceted life that could be considered somewhat characteristic of many subterranean artists. A member of the Black Panthers at 17 years old, he was later offered a full scholarship to New York University but instead pursued an occasionally illicit underground life. He subsequently adopted the African name Adeyeme (Yoruba for "the crown becomes me") and became a hand-drummer on the NYC free jazz scene during the '70s and '80s. He also appeared at jazz festivals in France and Luxembourg. Soon afterward he relocated to Arkansas where he would play solo gigs in and around Little Rock at the YWCA, Senior Citizen's Tea, and at junior high schools. Today he continues to play "freestyle" hand drums semi-formally in California.


Warner and Spigner often performed together at a venue called The Bakery (aka The Basement) before later joining forces with Earl Freeman in The Freestyle Band. They privately pressed 500 copies of this LP in 1984, their only commercially available document, and it is one of my favorite dispatches from the free jazz underground. Freeman's bubbly electric bass and the steady patter of Spigner's percolating hand drums create an ominously undulating backdrop upon which Warner's clarinets (both b-flat and alto) flutter and fly.

Unfortunately, various circumstances resulted in making the record particularly obscure. A third party diverted overseas promoters who wanted to book the band, and eventually the group split up. A shame, as I've never heard anything else quite like this terrific album. Hear a couple clips: The Roach Approach & Pelican. Here also is William Parker's remembrance of Earl Freeman, part of 50 Miles' ongoing research on this enigmatic artist.

Earl Freeman: bass guitar, piano
Henry Warner: b-flat clarinet, alto clarinet
Philip Spigner: hand drums

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Jimmy Lee Harris
Vol. 25 of the George Mitchell Collection
Fat Possum
33 1/3 rpm 7" EP
$5

Absolutely terrific acoustic country blues from Jimmy Lee Harris, recorded in Phenix City, Alabama, by George Mitchell in ~1980. Harris was around 45 years old at the time and a vibrant player with a loose, hypnotic style. Most of his songs are originals, a few of which sound largely improvised, with a relaxed, comfortable approach that’s very appealing. On one track he’s accompanied by his brother Eddie, a fine guitarist in his own right, while Jimmy Lee contributes some very convincing mock harmonica, a technique he learned while incarcerated (“I didn’t have nothing to play in there, and I made that up in jail.  I put my hands to my mouth and just did it, they all called me the Harp Boy. It sounded all right to the boys, so that’s how we had our music.”). Hear I Wanna Ramble.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Jessie Mae Hemphill
Vol. 45 of the George Mitchell Collection
Fat Possum
33 1/3 rpm 7" EP
$5

First ever recordings of the great Jessie Mae Hemphill. Two sweet-voiced a cappella gospel numbers (Home Going and I Want To Be Ready) on one side and an interesting interview on the other, where she discusses learning to play music from her grandfather, the legendary Sid Hemphill. Recorded in Senatobia, MS in August 1967, back when she was still known as Jessie Mae Brooks.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Rev. Charlie Jackson
Lord You're So Good: Live Recordings, Vol. 2
50 Miles of Elbow Room
LP
$20

Lord You’re So Good is the second volume in an ongoing retrospective of Rev. Charlie Jackson (1932-2006), one of the all-time great gospel guitarists. This collection continues to draw from Rev. Jackson’s extensive archive of private recordings that were usually made live-in-the-church on a portable cassette recorder as he traveled throughout Louisiana and Mississippi from ~1970-2000. 

Whenever there was an opportunity to join in and praise the Lord, Rev. Jackson was eager to be involved. In addition to performing his own songs, he served as a guitar accompanist to a wide range of solo singers, quartets, and bands. He would also sometimes provide a musical background to sermons and testimonies, accenting and punctuating them at key moments. Even when not performing, he could often be found close to the action, shouting encouragement.

The church services at which these collaborations often took place offered structured yet impromptu circumstances where Rev. Jackson needed to be prepared to spontaneously follow and respond to vocalists, congregations, and even members of his own groups. When introducing a singer, Rev. Jackson would sometimes note that he didn’t know what song was forthcoming, and occasionally mention afterward that the selection was a complete surprise, one that they hadn’t done before. At the same time, since he was a frequent visitor to many churches in Louisiana and Mississippi, Rev. Jackson also developed a rapport with some singers who had favorite songs that they would revisit at many different services. 

Regardless of the situation, Rev. Jackson was an enthusiastic, inspiring, supportive collaborator, who gave the same degree of commitment when an accompanist as he did when he was a leader or soloist.  Heartfelt praise of God, rather than personal glory, was the goal. And, as his widow Laura Jackson has said, they also had good Holy Ghost times.

Lord You're So Good includes several collaborations with these outstanding and as-yet-unidentified singers, as well as what appears to be a previously unreleased solo studio recording, taken from a tattered, once-unplayable 8-track tape.

"The recordings are surprisingly clean for having come from old cassettes and the music is as pure as it gets. Jackson's guitar is an extension of his body - a part of his preaching. He beats the guitar like a drum to drive the song, builds the intensity with his voice and strumming, and then goes for the kill with a vicious, naked guitar tone matched by searing vocals. Like the best gospel evangelists, Jackson is a master at building a performance slowly while making the audience putty in his hands. ... A must for any fan of deep, raw, guitar driven gospel. Rev. Charlie Jackson is as good as it gets." - Brett J. Bonner, Living Blues

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Rev. Charlie Jackson
Wrapped Up Tangled Up in Jesus / Morning Train
Booker Records
45 rpm 7"
$9

Officially licensed reissue of Rev. Charlie Jackson’s first 45. All his original singles are in high demand, this one especially so: 2 hot, classic sides. Edition of 500. Hear clips of Wrapped Up Tangled Up in Jesus & Morning Train.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Rev. Charlie Jackson
Wrapped Up in Jesus / Lord You're So Good
Jackson Records
45 rpm 7"
$24

Original copies of this very scarce 45, privately pressed by Rev. Charlie Jackson on his own Jackson Records imprint in the 1970s.

Rev. Charlie Jackson played an especially potent brand of raw, bluesy gospel. Born in 1932 just outside of McComb, Mississippi, he took up the electric guitar as a young man and started out playing the blues. Soon afterwards, he gave up the blues to serve the Lord. He developed a powerful, instantly recognizable style and often played on church programs with the legendary Rev. Utah Smith. He subsequently recorded a string of incredible and legendary 45s for Booker Records out of New Orleans.

After the Booker material went out-of-print, Rev. Jackson took matters into his own hands and started his own private press label, Jackson Records, in the late ‘70s. This 45 is Jackson 101 and it features a re-recording of “Wrapped Up and Tangled Up in Jesus,” one of his most popular numbers that had been previously released on Booker, backed by the previously unrecorded “Lord You’re So Good,” a deep and measured ballad.

This version of “Wrapped Up…” has not been reissued. Since Rev. Jackson sold these records exclusively at church services, they never entered the marketplace and therefore didn’t receive any other distribution.

Each side plays with relatively low but steady background crackle as well as the occasional pop which decreases in frequency a bit as the side progresses, probably reflection on the quality of the pressing. Generally speaking, these are quite clean copies, but there may be occasional minor idiosyncrasies in label and vinyl. Hear clips of Wrapped Up in Jesus & Lord You're So Good.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
George and Ethel McCoy
At Home with the Blues
Swingmaster
LP
$14

Exceptional brother / sister blues duo from St. Louis who were kin to Memphis Minnie and who also cut a very nice + desirable LP for Adelphi. Check out this footage to get a sense of where they were coming from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PY5EgXfCj4

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Mississippi Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods
Mama Says I'm Crazy
Fat Possum
LP
$14

Wild guitar/harmonica throwdown recorded by George Mitchell in 1967. Can’t be beat. 180 gram pressing. Hear Shake 'em on Down.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Buddy Moss
The George Mitchell Collection
Fat Possum / Big Legal Mess
LP
$13

"Born in 1914, Buddy Moss’ first instrument was harmonica. He grew up in Jewel, a small town in Warren County, Georgia, before moving with his family to Augusta, and later to Atlanta, where he started busking. With local musicians Curley Weaver and Robert 'Barbecue Bob' Hicks. Moss formed the Georgia Cotton Pickers, with whom he would make his recorded debut in 1930, recorded at the Campbell Hotel in Atlanta. Following his debut with the Georgia Cotton Pickers, Moss taught himself the guitar, and made his first records under his own name in 1933. After Hicks died of pneumonia in 1931, Moss started playing parties around Atlanta with Blind Boy Fuller. Moss was an in-demand recording artist throughout the 1930s, cutting dozens of sides for labels like Okeh and Columbia, and recording alongside Weaver, Fred McMullen, and Josh White.

"In 1935, Moss went to prison for the murder of his wife in an incident that was never fully recounted or explained (Mitchell has been told that Moss killed his wife by hitting her with a guitar). Moss’ good behavior and the lobbying of two sponsors willing to make sure Moss met the terms of his parole helped him get out of jail in 1941. Following his release from prison, Moss cut several sides for Okeh with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, but his recording comeback was cut short when the war effort forced the industry to drastically cut back its use of the shellac that went into making 78 records. Though Moss continued performing in the areas around Richmond, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, in the 1940s, music was no longer his profession or his living. He worked on a tobacco farm, drove trucks, and worked as an elevator operator over the next twenty years. Moss performed sporadically during the blues revival years of the 1960s, but went largely unrecorded, even as peers like Josh White were finding mass audiences." - Sam Sweet

George Mitchell: After Willie Rockomo and Peg Leg Howell, Buddy Moss was the first guy I recorded outside of Tennessee. I was a freshman at Emory. Bob Koester, from Denmark, was auctioning an old Buddy Moss 78 in a Schwann catalogue, and the ad read something like “one of the finest guitarists who ever lived…if only he was still alive.” I remembered hearing Moss’ name from Peg Leg Howell, so I found out he lived down on Park Avenue. He was still playing, but only for himself and friends. I went down there and he didn’t have electricity, so I invited him up to my house for dinner. And we had dinner, and afterwards, he played in my living room for my family, and I recorded it. That’s when I realized blues singers weren’t just in Memphis – they were in Atlanta, and everywhere else.

Hear Amy. LP includes download card.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Rev. Leon Pinson
The George Mitchell Collection
Fat Possum / Big Legal Mess
LP
$14

“Rev. Leon Pinson grew up in north Mississippi, then lived in the Delta for over three decades, steadily playing his brand of blues-inflected gospel. Beginning in 1929, Rev. Pinson traveled the northern Mississippi region alongside his musical partner, the harmonica player Elder Roma Wilson. The pair built a strong following on the church circuit, earning renown for their renditions of 'This Train,' 'Lily of the Valley,' and 'Better Get Ready.' In the 1940s, Elder Wilson left Mississippi for Detroit, where he would make his first recordings. Meanwhile, Rev. Pinson settled in Cleveland, MS, where he’d play outside of Charlie White’s barber shop. Later he opened his own shoe shine stand, picking up the guitar when business was slow. Rev. Pinson and Elder Wilson were reunited in the 1070s, when Wilson returned to Mississippi. The pair gained widespread acclaim from appearing at several prominent festivals.” - Sam Sweet

George Mitchell: “We found him playing outside this little store. We recorded him a lot on acoustic, but when he was in public, he had a little loudspeaker and an electric guitar, and he made some noise. His gospel felt like blues. He had a really beautiful sound.” These lovely recordings were made in Cleveland, MS, in 1967. Hear Hush, Somebody is Calling My Name. LP includes download card.

Alan Young’s Woke Me Up this Morning book includes this tantalizing bit of info: “He carries cassette tapes for sale at concerts and other performances. ... When he decides to make some tapes, he sets up his portable recorder and sings and plays into it. When he has filled up a 60 minute cassette tape, he uses another twin-deck recorder to run off a dozen or so copies. He sells them at $11 each; when they’re all gone, he loads his little red portable recorder, sets up his instruments, and makes another tape. He keeps no store of ‘master tapes’; each batch of tapes he makes contains new recordings.” (!)

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Rev. Utah Smith
Two Wings / Take a Trip
Checker
45 rpm 7"
$9

Elder Utah Smith was a pioneer of the electric guitar and a flamboyant, high energy performer. This is a 2011 reissue of what is probably his hottest two-sider, which puts it shoulder-to-shoulder with the best. Such rousing, life affirming, eternal music. And it was cut in 1953? Holy smokes. Hear Two Wings & Take a Trip.

Artist:
Title:
Label:
Format:
Price:
Various Artists
The George Mitchell Collection, Volumes 1-45
Fat Possum
7CD box set
$32

Several years ago Fat Possum bought the rights to the recorded archive of folklorist George Mitchell, which resulted in the release of several CDs and a slew of 7”s, a fair number of which are also stocked here. This budget-priced 7CD box compiles all of the material released on those 45 7”s, plus a full CD of extra tracks.

For many years, the recordings made by George Mitchell as he traveled the south needed to be procured in a similar manner to which Mitchell learned about the musicians he recorded: following up on a lead here or a reference there, analyzing a scrap of information that might prove to be key, and generally a lot of asking around. A music enthusiast from an early age, Mitchell’s first trip to hang out with blues musicians took place in 1961, when he was only 17 years old. Over the next 20 years, he proceeded to periodically record, interview, and photograph many great blues artists. Along the way he made the first recordings of some artists who later went on to great renown, such as RL Burnside and Otha Turner, as well as some of the earliest “revival” sessions with pre-war stars such as Sleepy John Estes and Furry Lewis. Mostly he recorded people who remain largely unfamiliar to modern listeners, but whose music offers great rewards: the massive “Georgia Drumbeat” stomp of James Davis, the deep and inscrutable blues of Cecil Barfield, the stately slide guitar gospel of Leon Pinson, the ancient-sounding blues of Lonzie Thomas, the stunning high and lonesome tunes of John Lee Ziegler, beautiful a cappella spirituals, and on and on. Particularly noteworthy is the amount of material from the Chattahoochee Valley region, which was largely ignored by other folklorists of the time. 

Though these recordings are consistently outstanding, what makes this material truly special to me is the manner in which it transports the listener to a different place and time, giving a sense of how the blues existed during a period when the status of the musicians who played it was often starting to fade in their communities. That said, the performances often have an intimate and relaxed feel to them, as befits a music played for the joy of a few. In his liner notes to this box set, Sam Sweet sums it up quite well, “A detailed picture of 20th century black musical culture in the rural South emerges from the recurring themes in Mitchell’s archive: kids learning instruments from their relatives or family friends; musicians spending their entire life within the distance of one or two towns; musicians forming irreplaceable and lifelong musical partnerships; people staging non-church-related concerts and parties for themselves in the woods and fields near their homes. What Mitchell amassed over his 20 years in the field is as good a picture of that world as any of us are ever going to get.” For plenty of soundclips from this set, see the 7"s available on the Fat Possum page.