featuring Rev. Gary Davis, Stefan Grossman, Woody Mann, Roy Book Binder & Larry Sandberg
In the mid-1970s I started Kicking Mule Records with my friend ED Denson. The idea was to have a record label devoted to guitar playing and especially fingerstyle guitar. Some People Play Guitar... Like a Lotta People Don't was the second collection I put together for the label. The idea was to present friends and my teacher, Rev. Gary Davis in an anthology of blues and ragtime playing.
Woody Mann was a student of Rev. Davis and was at this time in his musical development focusing on country blues playing. Good Gal was taken from an old Josh White recording from the 1920s. Crosstown Blues is an original instrumental that brings together many blues influences. Who's Been Here comes from the playing of the great Bo Carter.
Roy Book Binder (or as he use to write his name in the 1970s - Roy Bookbinder) was also a student of Rev. Gary Davis. Roy has always brought a wonderful wry attitude to his performances and recordings. Bad Luck Blues is a classic Blind Lemon Jefferson tune. Roy learned I Got Mine first hand from Pink Anderson (like Rev. Davis a Carolina blues player who recorded several sides in the 1930s). Bye Bye Baby Blues come from the great Texas blues singer Little Hat Jones.
Larry Sandberg was a close friend and a New York City player that hung around Washington Square Park at the Sunday afternoon jams. Larry had a distinct and different touch and feel for his playing than the other New York pickers. His original composition Delta Swing highlights his sound.
The influence that Rev. Gary Davis had on the New York City guitar scene was enormous. He was the "master" and always made sure he was several steps ahead of his students. His Swingin' Blues in an improvised instrumental and shows Rev. Davis' genius at taking a theme and extending and exploring the ideas. In the 1970s the ragtime repertoire became very popular for fingerstyle players to tackle. Darktown Strutter's Ball is a rare recording of Rev. Davis playing this old ragtime standard.
Though heavily influenced by Rev. Davis, I was also in the midst of discover many other country blues styles and techniques in the 1970s. Bottleneck playing has always intrigued me. Tell Me Baby comes from the playing of King Solomon Hill. Good Morning Little schoolgirl was taught to me by Mississippi Fred McDowell.
This CD is a blast from the past and shows some of the first recordings by Roy, Woody, Larry and myself. We have all continued our love affair with the guitar and our roots have stayed in the country blues tradition.
Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
1. Tell Me Baby - Stefan Grossman
2. Good Gal - Woody Mann
3. Old Devil - Woody Mann
4. Crosstown Blues - Woody Mann
5. Bad Luck Blues - Roy Book Binder
6. Delta Swing - Larry Sandberg
7. I Got Mine - Roy Book Binder
8. Bye Bye Baby Blues - Roy Book Binder
9. Swingin' Blues - Rev. Gary Davis
10. Darktown Strutters Ball - Rev. Gary Davis
11. Who's Been Here - Woody Mann
12. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - Stefan Grossman
Review: This album was first released in 1974 and caused quite a bit of excitement. At that time any new recordings by the legendary Rev. Gary Davis ( 1896 - 1972) were greatly anticipated, and to have tracks from three of his guitar students, and friends, made the release even more interesting. Stefan Grossman was at the time of this release already known on both sides of the Atlantic for his admiration of Davis, and he had a following in the U.K. Davis himself toured the U.K. three times, and on his last visit during 1971 he was the headliner at the popular Cambridge Folk Festival.
There were not many easy-to-find albums by Davis during the early 1970s, so the two titles here were warmly received, particularly as they were not gospel material. On Swingin' Blues, a slow-paced improvised instrumental, Davis meanders all over the fret board with ingenuity and tremendous confidence-a master at work. The second title, Darktown Strutters Ball, another startling instrumental, has Davis telling us, "That's the way to play the piano!" This was probably an early piece in his vast repertoire.
There are two crisp bottleneck instrumentals from Grossman, and Tell Me Baby, from King Solomon Hill, starts this set off on a high note. His version of Mississippi Fred McDowell's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl captures the tone and energy of the highly charged original. This release was one of the very first recordings by Roy Book Binder and he was at this time, like Grossman, already collecting quite a following on both sides of the Atlantic. Book Binder is now a highly respected and popular performer known not only for his distinctive guitar picking both also for his humor and storytelling skills. He was, like Grossman and Mann, a friend and student of Davis and was keen to hunt out other early blues performers. He learned I Got Mine firsthand from the legendary Pink Anderson. There is a beautifully lilting version of Bye Bye Baby Blues from Little Hat Jones, and his jaunty interpretation of the Blind Lemon Jefferson's Bad Luck Blues is another fine moment.
Woody Mann was, at the time of these recordings, taking regular lessons with Davis and had an enthusiastic interest in all styles of music, but he was then focusing on the country blues. Mann has always chosen his material with great ingenuity and the four titles here show how interesting his choices were even 35 years ago. He swings along at a great pace on josh White's Good Gal and his intricate guitar skills shine through on Bo Carter's Who's Been Here which certainly would have made his teacher proud!
Just one title from performer, author, and teacher Larry Sandberg appears here-Delta Swing, a beautifully toned original featuring lively finger picking. It is a shame that more of his work was not included. This is a very enjoyable and entertaining album and it is great to see it available again after all this time. – Living Blues/Bob Tilling